In May 2020, we launched our first project in the UK to plant trees for NHS hospitals and local council sites. Together with Trees for Cities and NHS Forests we planted trees at over ten NHS hospitals across the country, to benefit those in urban areas with high levels of pollution and where access to nature is limited.
Now, in the bustling city of London, a doctor for the NHS is helping plant thousands of trees each week. Amelia Cussans is a junior doctor and climate activist. She is on a mission to convince as many NHS organisations as possible to join the Ecosia movement. In this interview we ask what motivated her to bring Ecosia to her workplace and hear more about her vision for a greener NHS.
How did you hear about Ecosia?
I was introduced to Ecosia by friends in the climate movement. At first I had some reservations, as tree planting is very much in vogue and lots of organisations are doing it badly, planting ecologically disastrous monocultures of non-native saplings. But Ecosia seem to be doing things properly — collaborating with communities to plant the right trees in the right places. Better still, your goal is literally just to restore and protect biodiversity — not to offset or sell carbon credits.
What motivated you to try to get your workplace to switch to Ecosia?
After switching to Ecosia on my laptop and phone, and encouraging friends to do the same, the next logical step was to bring it to work. The NHS is a huge polluter — if the global health sector was a country, it would be the world's fifth largest emitter.
We have a lot of work to do to decrease the environmental impact of health services to ensure a livable planet for all. The NHS is really struggling at the moment, but Ecosia is a free and simple way to bring climate action into our daily work. Getting the NHS’s 1.34 million staff members to use Ecosia could have a substantial impact. I crunched some numbers and found that if NHS England were to switch, we would plant an estimated 14,846,629 trees per year — equivalent to removing over a third of a megatonne of carbon from the atmosphere. That’s the same as 1.5% of NHS England’s annual emissions.
What has been the impact so far?
I hadn’t appreciated just how big the impact would be until I started to receive the monthly tree reports from Ecosia. The NHS Trust I worked at, Central and North West London (CNWL), was planting between 6,000-7,000 trees per month.
The plan now is to get as many as possible NHS organisations to start using Ecosia. I’ve been pitching the idea to a number of trusts and have encouraged colleagues to do the same. This approach has proven quite slow though, as there are a lot of hoops to jump through with each trust, and some are reluctant to consider switching. So I contacted NHS England to see if they could support a national switch. I’m now working with the NHS digital team to produce a blueprint for switching to Ecosia, so that CNWL’s experience can be shared. A step-by-step guide will make the process of switching as easy as possible for other NHS organisations.
Do you have any advice for others who would like their workplace to make the switch?
Be persistent. There is often resistance to change, and organisations will always have competing priorities, but switching to Ecosia can really make an impact. I tried both the “bottom up” approach (gathering support from a large group of staff) and “top down” approach (asking the senior management team to sign-off on the change). Both can work, but things tend to move quicker with senior support.
I’d also add that this makes a great quality improvement project for those who work in healthcare. Here I have complied a number of resources including a healthcare-orientated Ecosia pitch deck and email templates for implementing this project in your workplace.
By switching to Ecosia the NHS can commit to fighting climate change by planting trees that create a greener and fairer future. If you want to see Ecosia brought to your workplace, visit the Ecosia for Teams page where we have several resources to support your organisation to make the switch.