Calculate a Carbon Footprint


This is the review you must read!

Charlie Tomson (a UK renal physician with a passion for sustainability in healthcare) has written an absolutely excellent review of the heavy carbon footprint left by healthcare. It is a ‘must-read‘ for all who wish to understand this area better.

Furthermore, the Sustainable Healthcare website (UK) has a wealth of information about all aspects of the carbon footprint of both dialysis and nephrology, and is a seminal resource for anyone interested in more sustainable systems.

A paucity of studies

Only two teams have published carbon footprint data in haemodialysis … the UK reports by Connor et al in HDI and in the QJM, , and the Australian study from Lim et al.

Only one study is known to have looked at the carbon footprint of peritoneal dialysis – a study from China in 2017.

Clearly there is a huge need to understand this vital information better and to tease out the differences, both within modalities and region to region.


How to calculate and/or estimate a carbon footprint 

It is important, where possible, to evaluate/estimate the carbon savings and cost benefits of each research project.

There are several online standardised greenhouse gas emission tools available to assist with this, but many of the commercial options focus on households and can be difficult to translate to healthcare.

A good healthcare starting point is a 2010 paper by Grant and Bailey in the BMJ that leads to the a healthcare calculator developed by the Carbon Trust.  It takes a little time to get the hang of it, but there are a number of standards in the literature that allow cross-practice equalisation.

If applied to all projects, the relative value in terms of both carbon footprint and dollar savings of each intervention can be determined and better understood.


Examples of carbon footprint case-studies in dialysis

One extraordinary group of thought-starters for anyone embarking on the documentation of the carbon footprint in dialysis or nephrology are the series of published carbon footprint case studies at the CSH website. We recommend this as a first stop reference (after reading Charlie Tomson’s review … see above), as these simple examples will show you that no study is too small or too simple not to be foot-printed.

Note how each study records … up-front … the annual savings that accrue, both in dollar terms and in CO2 equivalents (the ‘unit’ of the carbon footprint) from each sustainability intervention.