Background to our recommendations
Healthy oceans are essential for life on earth to exist and all organisations must have a blue plan within their sustainability strategy. We must become net zero AND nature positive as healthy ecosystems are required for us all to survive. We must look beyond carbon and reduce all forms of pollution which impact both land and oceans:
Carbon dioxide, all other greenhouse gases, airborne particulate matter. Responsible for global warming, loss of arctic sea ice (black carbon) and multiple human diseases relating to air pollution. Dissolved CO2 leads to oceanic acidification which makes it harder for many species to survive, contributes to extinction and reduces marine biodiversity and biomass.
Heat energy produced by greenhouse gases. Responsible for global warming, loss of sea ice and widespread destruction of entire ecosystems such as coral reefs. Negative impact of melting permafrost not completely quantified.
Macro waste which we can see and sort. Waste damages the environment either directly or through processes required to manage or recycle. Macro waste can impact species such as turtles who mistake plastic bags for food such as jelly fish. All macro waste release chemicals, contaminating the environment through molecular pollution.
Molecular pollution (chemical contamination) which we cannot see and very difficult to control. Forever chemicals, microplastics, road vehicle tyre/brake dust (2nd largest source of ocean microplastic) and pharmaceuticals poison all species which live in the oceanic ecosystem from the tiniest cyanobacteria all the way up the food chain to whales and sharks.
Underwater Radiated Noise from container and cruise ships; human leisure activities. Marine species use their ears like we use eyes and noise impacts upon their ability to migrate, feed, reproduce and avoid predators. A noisy ocean leads to species harm from the largest of whales to the smallest of plankton leading to a reduction in marine biomass.
Eutrophication from agricultural land run-off and untreated sewage. Coastal eutrophication can lead to harmful algae blooms which can render coastal regions devoid of life with remaining species like shellfish becoming toxic with potentially fatal outcomes for humans.
Physical destruction including building, mining, marine mammal collisions (MMC), non-indigenous species transfer (NIS) and artificial light. Destruction and disturbance of habitat and direct trauma to larger species destroy coastal marine communities and can lead to loss of biodiversity.
All the above are turning oceans into an inhospitable environment, leading to a loss of biodiversity and species extinction with oceans losing half of all their biomass in just 70 years. This includes photosynthesising organisms which remove CO2 from the atmosphere. CO2 is just one element of the spectrum of pollution which is driving climate change and environmental loss.
We are now in the UN Decade of Ocean Science and must place natural systems at the centre of all decisions we make at personal, organisational, and national level. If we ignore oceans, we will simply find it impossible to meet ‘net zero’ targets but most importantly, the ongoing loss of biodiversity and biomass will lead to an uninhabitable planet.
The following are deliverable actions which can be included in everyday life and blue plans. These are not exhaustive and are focussed on improving oceanic health. References to external organisations are not endorsements but examples of where actions are occurring.
Individual actions everyone can take
Reduce road mileage travelled including EVs, active travel best when possible. Keep personal cars for as long as possible, minimise heavy braking and accelerating, and be cautious of schemes which promote the purchase of a newer car at the end of the agreement. If buying a vehicle, look at vehicle weight and purchase the lightest car possible to reduce the production of tyre and brake dust.
Reduce consumption (of all goods) where possible especially for plastic-based items. Keep what you buy for as long as possible, repair, re-purpose, gift on and reduce pressure on all waste streams. Try to avoid replacing items based upon fashion trends, especially clothing. Embrace the circular economy and when something is truly at the end of its life, dispose of it responsibly using recycling facilities whenever possible.
Use chemicals responsibly and remember that all drains lead to the sea. Never dispose of pharmaceuticals down sinks and toilets; always return to pharmacies. Avoid cosmetics which contain microplastics and especially avoid harmful products which come into direct contact with the ocean (e.g., many sunscreens).
Choose holidays carefully ensuring you understand the environmental impact of travelling to the destination, the holiday type (e.g., cruises) and the impact of ocean-based leisure activities on natural environments and local communities.
Remove litter from your local area, report fly tipping and try to ensure all waste enters municipal waste and recycling streams. Removing waste from around rivers and inland waterways can reduce macro and molecular pollution destined for the oceans.
If you have the spare resource (e.g., money or time), seek out legitimate charities that undertake activities or need your support to operate. There are many fantastic groups which organise beach cleans and other organisations which are focussed on protecting and improving the environment.
When possible, choose sustainably sourced fish and other ocean produce when eating out or grocery shopping.
Secondary Care and Ambulance Trusts
Reduce all non-essential (including EV) travel; support use of and incentivise active and public transport as well as multiple occupancy journeys; encourage staff to stay local or attend virtually for education (e.g., Continuing Professional Development – CPD) and speaking engagements.
For essential fleet and emergency road vehicles, consider use of tyre and brake dust capture technology when available (e.g., https://www.thetyrecollective.com/).
Consider limiting the range of vehicles available (including EVs) on lease-hire schemes to lighter cars with lower volumes of tyre and brake dust generation.
Utilise low/zero-emissions, short range transport systems for collecting and delivering goods to multiple sites (e.g., https://www.zmove.uk/).
Implement initiatives which reduce demand for healthcare services, improve patient recovery, reduce complications and length of stay; for example – pre-habilitation and get fit for surgery.
Embrace the circular economy with a clear strategy to reduce reliance on all single-use items; procure equipment which can be re-used or re-purposed where this incurs an overall lower environmental impact; insist upon minimum viable packaging and recycle as much as possible when re-use/re-purpose not possible.
Reduce your organisation’s molecular pollution from all sources, especially pharmaceuticals; educate and embed the principles of good pharmaceutical stewardship and management; ensure staff dispose of unused pharmaceuticals and patient waste correctly.
Procurement teams to fully embed Policy Procurement Note 6/20 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/procurement-policy-note-0620-taking-account-of-social-value-in-the-award-of-central-government-contracts) from the perspective of oceanic health and nature within tenders (see Healthcare Ocean Supplier actions and NHS England Social Value Guidance).
Local Authorities and Integrated Care Systems
Suppliers of Healthcare Equipment and Pharmaceuticals
Improve organisational water stewardship; reduce wastewater contaminants from all stages of product life cycle: acquisition of raw materials, manufacture, shipping, use/re-use/repurpose and disposal.
For suppliers with international supply chains: procure container ships which cause the least environmental impact when shipping the product. For example, by using (or ensuring your freight forwarder uses) externally verified environmental performance data when selecting a carrier for the product; commitment to initiatives such as coZEV – Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Shipping (https://www.cozev.org/).
Ensure executives, manufacturing and distribution teams understand (through additional education if required) the need for good water stewardship and why improving oceanic health is critical for humanity to be successful in tackling the climate and nature emergency.
Protect and add to nature and biodiversity through operational change, focussed internal schemes or investment in existing nature protection and improvement programmes with evidence of action resulting from investment of money and/or time.