Wardipedia – 43. Going Green

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Thinking out of the refuse box


Greenyness is great for healthier living, feeling positively connected with the world outside the ward, contributing to the local and global challenge of saving the planet. And of course many patients and staff will be passionate environmentalists and can provide lots of great ideas for gentler, more sustainable ways of running wards. For those people new to living greenly, it’s a good opportunity to find out about the personal and community benefits of doing so.

People with mental health problems can find it difficult to participate in environmental, economical and socially valuable activities. They may be isolated and feel excluded from social relations and their neighbourhood and wider community.

As human beings, we enjoy performing social rituals together. Giving back to the community leads to multiple benefits; not just for the environment but for the individual. (See also Idea # 42 Charities.)  Ward recycling is just one way of allowing patients to positively contribute to the ward as a community and in the wider sense. It’s about banding together and playing an important part in tackling common causes and issues. Apart from the importance of community, here are a few other benefits:

  • Cooperation
  • Sense of togetherness
  • Feeling of association
  • Sense of altruism
  • Sense of control
  • Sense of purpose and meaning
  • Sticking to values
  • Helping others

Ward examples

  • Recycling – even tea-bags go to the composter. Plastic cups get used to grow seeds, for the sensory  garden that patients and staff are designing and developing.

Patients go to the local garden centre to choose plants, books, brochures and folders about gardening have been resourcefully sought from local gardening clubs, there’s a sheet on the noticeboard where patients have written their ideas for the garden. (See also Idea #19 Gardening.)

Green values are reflected in the ‘Wellness Recovery Action Plan’ (WRAP) workbook.  The ‘Developing a Wellness Toolbox’ section asks the user to think about what carries a sense of meaning or significance for them, and what inspires them and reminds them of their values. Similarly, the ‘Recovery Star’ asks the user to reflect on their responsibilities.

Ideas for greener wards

  • The Trust intranet classified ads can be a great place to swap, and buy cheap things for the ward – always handy. Staff are always selling unwanted bits and pieces and often giving things away free.
  • Why not dedicate a board in the unit for everyone to advertise freebies? For example, a ward may have a karaoke machine that isn’t ever used – another ward may be looking for one. Ward store rooms are often full of stuff that’s seen as junk but as the saying goes, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.
  • Green noticeboard (it would be cool to try to get a Fairtrade or organic one!!)
  • Leaflets, books etc from library, local authority, community groups
  • Speakers eg , local Friends of the Earth groups
  • Having the issue on agenda of Acute Care Forum (if you’re lucky enough still to have one!), community meetings, Patients’ Council etc
  • Inviting someone from senior management and/or estates/facilities to ward community meetings

What can staff do?

  • Conserve your computer’s energy.
  • Turn off all peripherals (printers etc) when not in use.
  • Reduce printer use
  • Reduce your paper waste.
  • Recycle ink cartridges
  • Reuse envelopes
  • Reuse scrap paper
  • Prioritise your paper use.
  • Reduce energy usage
  • Green your desk, office with indoor plants
  • Travel green.
  • Create a Green Team.
  • Solar power
  • Whether or not your Trust goes for Big Projects like fitting solar panels to roofs (and being paid for the excess energy this generates), wards can get into solar power indoors and out.

Top nature tips

Compost – Outdoors or In!  – Around 35% of domestic waste is organic – i.e. from the kitchen and garden. Make your own free compost – it’s great for the garden and much better for the environment than commercial compost which can contain non-sustainable peat.

Bring nature Indoors – Whether you’re in the city or the country, any ward can bring plants into the mix.  (See Idea #19 Gardening. Especially organic gardening!)

And from Natural England:

  • Brighten your garden with flowers
  • Have a variety of trees, shrubs and climbers or a mixed hedge
  • Look after mature trees
  • Create a pond
  • Leave a pile of dead wood in a shady spot
  • Build a compost heap
  • Provide food and water for birds all year round
  • Garden in a sustainable way – minimal chemicals, no no peat, choose wood from sustainable sources, recycle all you can and save water.


Interestingly, the first Bicycle User Groups in the UK was established at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, in 1993. As the CFE website niftily puts it:
A BUG should be open to all, it’s not just for hardened lycra-clad enthusiasts who bike to work every day, come rain or shine. It is for ‘bike users’ as opposed to ‘cyclists’ and the difference is an important one. A bike user may pedal to work just a handful of times a year. Nevertheless, their views and ideas are as valid as those of a five-days-a-week cyclist.

A cycle-friendly employer is an organisation that does more than simply tolerate cycling.

Ideas for smooth cycling

  • Hospital ‘pool bikes’. Such a great idea! Staff who don’t want to buy a bike, or use theirs for work, can still benefit from the convenience of borrowing a bike.
  • Motivating mileage allowances
  • Secure storage
  • Cycle skills training
  • Cycle maintenance
  • Communal tool-kit
  • Discount at local bike shops
  • Showers
  • Lockers
  • Guaranteed ride home – eg if bike gets puncture or weather is too, er, English, or you have to work late. Some (enlightened!) employers address these concerns by guaranteeing staff a free taxi ride home in the event of an emergency or the need for unexpected overtime.
  • National Bike Week. Usually in the middle of June, Bike Week is a marvellous opportunity to have fun, to demonstrate the bicycle’s potential as a means of transport and to tempt more people to give cycling a try. Across the country all kinds of events take place including sponsored rides, Doctor Bike clinics and cycle festivals. Visit the Bike Week website for more information.
  • A government incentive scheme allows employees to get bikes through their employer at up to half price as a tax-free benefit.


Some Handy Green Sites

Freecycle groups are run by locally based volunteer moderators. The worldwide Freecycle Network is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It’s a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. http://www.uk.freecycle.org/

Ecofreek searches over 45+ websites and 10,000 libraries worldwide for free and swappable items being given away by people who no longer need them!

With Free2collect advertise your unwanted stuff for free and pick up some more freebies. The only stipulation is that if you find an item you want, you must arrange collection. http://www.free2collect.co.uk/

Gumtree is a community board where people can advertise their unwanted goods for free, swap or sale! Scroll to the bottom of the page to find your local area. This is a fab site, with lots more to offer! http://www.gumtree.com/

“Recycle” is another site to give away or obtain unwanted free goods! http://www.recycle.co.uk/

Use Efreeko to advertise your unwanted stuff for free and pick up some freebies of your own! All items must be given away free of charge or buyer pays reasonable postage costs.

Don’tDumpThat provides a quick, easy, and free way to get rid of items you don’t want. So if your junk still has some reusable life in it, don’t throw it out with the rubbish: someone, somewhere can probably find a use for it.


Categories: Generosity, Wardipedia