With the effect of greater extremes of heat and cold on individual health, food production, transport and all the systems that underpin our daily lives, those who work in healthcare recognise that climate breakdown is also a public health issue.  

As such, our Board endorsed the Devon Climate Emergency Declaration in 2021, and we have been working hard to minimise our emissions impact and to explore ways to support our environmental sustainability and stewardship pillar; one of the four strategic pillars that underpins our aims.  

We enlisted the support of sustainability consultancy, Eunomia, to help calculate our emissions with the goal of becoming carbon neutral – a challenge given how essential the fuel-dependent fleet of two lifesaving emergency aircraft and two Critical Care Cars, and the support vehicles, are to our service. The whole fleet accounted for 63% of emissions in 2019. 

Sustainable interventions

While electrification of the land vehicles is one of seven key interventions we are making to minimise our largest emissions source, as yet sustainable aviation fuel technology is not developed enough for the aircraft to move over to. 

Therefore, other areas, such as ensuring buildings are low carbon, incentivising low carbon commuting, reducing the emissions intensity of business travel, enacting sustainable procurement and use of goods and services, and improving sustainable waste management, are available areas  for us to improve upon.  

With these interventions in place, carbon emissions could be cut by the organisation from 1,072 to 739 tCO2 – a potential reduction of around 31%.  

Saving on emissions is also saving on costs

Furthermore, such carbon savings offer ongoing cost-saving opportunities to the charity, as we are 100% dependent on our fantastic supporters for our income. 

Elsewhere, our charity shops bring in a significant income stream thanks to local people donating to and shopping at our 19 high-street charity shops throughout Devon, as well as online. 

Although, according to GHG accounting standards, ‘avoided emissions’ cannot be counted towards the organisation’s carbon footprint status, avoided emissions in 2019 nevertheless accounted for –2,500 tonnes of CO2, which strongly illustrates the benefits of reuse and the important part the secondhand clothes market plays in the circular economy.  

Got any questions? We happy to share insights and good practice with fellow local charities and organisations who are looking to reduce their emissions impact, increase efficiency, and make cost savings. Contact [email protected] with your questions.