Climate change can seem like an insurmountable issue and it can be difficult to see how we can make a difference. But, as I found out, it is possible to find your voice, engage in the conversation across an organisation and become part of a bigger movement that is making real change.
My story begins during a session held by the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) called ‘Five minutes in the spotlight’. Here, members share snippets about their life to help the team feel more connected and, in July 2021, I shared my passion for the environment.
During lockdown, I realised three things. First, that the world could come together in the face of adversity, identify a common aim and undertake radical change. Second, that material things were not important to me, but the people and places that I loved — family and friends, unspoilt landscape, or even just my local park — were. Finally, I realised what a calmer, greener, cleaner world we could have if we just slowed down and put our minds to it.
My story resonated with others. Lots of people empathised and wanted to share ideas and support. From this, the #GreenerTeam was born. Initially, it was a small group, in which we shared ideas, articles, podcasts, recipes; anything related to reducing environmental impact. But, as the weeks went by, word spread and the numbers in the group crept up.
Three months later, I presented at the CPPE’s national meeting, an online event attended by the entire organisation, comprising 200 people. Here, I repeated my story, and shared my efforts to make small changes, such as not eating meat, driving less and switching my bank account to one that does not invest in fossil fuels. I highlighted some simple things that people could do to make an impact and urged everyone to keep going or to start doing something, however small. I also looked at what the CPPE itself could be doing.
The CPPE already had a good track record of considering the environment, including encouraging use of public transport and policies around sustainable use of paper and ink. Prior to my presentation, a staff survey identified lots of potential actions for the CPPE, as well as highlighting actions staff were already undertaking individually. Sharing my story had a huge impact. Membership of the #GreenerTeam increased to more than 100 people and this focused communication channel ensured that people engaged more directly with the CPPE’s sustainability efforts, acting as a platform to share information about the CPPE’s existing policies.
In the past six months, the CPPE has made tremendous progress in reducing environmental impact, both individually and organisationally. A survey undertaken in February 2022 identified that 83% of staff had taken personal action to reduce their environmental impact in the previous six months — eating less meat, driving less, consuming less, switching their bank accounts and using less energy at home. In addition, 74% shared their ideas or actions with other people, with some using their positions in the local community as a platform to spread the word. The survey also demonstrated that 88% had taken work-related action. These actions focused on minimising printing, reducing energy consumption when working at home and using public transport when required to travel for work.
Sustainability has now been embedded into staffing structures and procedures. Building on existing policies, the CPPE has introduced a sustainability lead in the senior leadership team, as well as regional leads, to ensure strong communication about sustainability throughout the organisation. Sustainability awareness is now incorporated at all levels of our learning development. This includes consideration of the health impact of climate change in our learning content, as well as the carbon impact of learning materials, as outlined in our updated environmental statement.
The new policies include provision of 100% vegetarian food at our events and introducing staff Fairphones, an ethical and sustainable mobile phone. When at public events, the CPPE now uses QR codes to signpost information, rather than paper leaflets. We are working with our host, the University of Manchester, to further reduce our carbon impact as part of the university’s net zero target. We continue to work with other organisations, such as the Academic Health Science Network, NHS England and Improvement and Pharmacy Declares, to raise the profile of the health impacts of climate change and set examples of minimising our environmental impact.
Recent research reports that people can make a significant impact on climate change by taking six actions. Individual action can make a difference and sharing personal stories helps to engage more people. In less than a year, my story has impacted an organisation of almost 200 members of staff. Many of those are now taking daily action to create a greener planet, and sharing their actions with others, thus extending the effect. The CPPE as an organisation is also taking action, setting an example and encouraging others to do the same. This story highlights how sharing my passion triggered a wave of momentum in climate change action at the CPPE.
I hope this might inspire you to take action too.
Nuala Hampson is a senior pharmacist and education supervisor at the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education
With thanks to Lucy Chalkley, regional tutor and education supervisor (South West) at the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education