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Environmental Sustainability in the Intensive Care Unit: Challenges and Solutions

Huffling, Katie MS, RN, CNM; Schenk, Elizabeth PhD, MHI, RN

doi: 10.1097/CNQ.0000000000000028
Original Articles

In acute care practice sites, the intensive care unit (ICU) is one of the most resource-intense environments. Replete with energy-intensive equipment, significant waste production, and multiple toxic chemicals, ICUs contribute to environmental harm and may inadvertently have a negative impact on the health of patients, staff, and visitors. This article evaluates the ICU on four areas of environmental sustainability: energy, waste, toxic chemicals, and healing environment and provides concrete actions ICU nurses can take to decrease environmental health risks in the ICU. Case studies of nurses making changes within their hospital practice are also highlighted, as well as resources for nurses starting to make changes at their health care institutions.

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Mount Rainer, Maryland (Ms Huffling); St Patrick Hospital, Missoula, Montana (Dr Schenk); and Washington State University College of Nursing, Spokane (Dr Schenk).

Correspondence: Katie Huffling, MS, RN, CNM, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, 2901 Shepherd St, Mount Rainier, MD 20712 (

This document and recommendations have been prepared in good faith using best evidence from medical literature available at the time of writing. None of the authors or any person who helped bring together this information have any conflicts of interest or financial interests to report. No funding has been received for this work from any of the following organizations: National Institutes of Health; Wellcome Trust; Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and other(s).

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