Green Badge - Green Practice
Consideration of the environment is integral to occupational therapy interventions, yet if we are not addressing acknowledging the issue of climate change and the probable impacts on clients and ourselves, are we being truly holistic?
By starting to make simple, practical changes in practice, OTs in all their settings can make a telling contribution to NHS carbon reduction. This could include looking for carbon-friendly sources of food used for cooking activities. OTs could also explore opportunities to inform clients about water and energy consumption and conservation. And at a more strategic level, OTs involved in decisions about the procurement of equipment, could ask questions about where is it manufactured and how ethically it is made.
Linking sustainable development with occupational therapy is simply common sense, and clients can only benefit from our incorporation of a sustainable healthful approach to practice. Common activities already used by OTs with clients such as gardening, cooking, needlework can all be viewed as ‘sustainable’ activities’; and are known to promote psycho-emotional well being, often resulting in ‘peak’ or ‘flow’ experiences.
The immediate general benefits to clients are likely to include better health awareness, cost savings and improved quality of life.
OT Susnet started life in 2009 when Tamara Rayment, an occupational therapist who had seen what we were doing to create a community of people and practice in Green Nephrology, approached us with the determination to do the same in OT. Tamara worked with us entirely on a voluntary basis and helped the Green Occupational Therapy network to grow to over 250 people.
Ben Whittaker joined her later that year and together they wrote several papers and presented at conferences. Together they have created an energetic group, which now numbers over 400 and is inspiring international accolades as well as local action: http://sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/ot-susnet. We would like to thank Tamara very much for her impetus to start the group and enthusiasm in developing it in the early years.
Ben is now the lead on this specialty and works as a volunteer to support OT Susnet one day a week alongside his job as a mental health OT. Ben is developing the academic concepts underpinning sustainable OT practice*, as well as links with the College of OT and with research collaborators.
* Whittaker B (2012) Sustainable Global Wellbeing: a proposed expansion of the occupational therapy paradigm. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(9) 436-439
I’m an OT - what can I do?
With service users
- Model sustainable behaviours in all your interventions
- Establish a ‘Green Living Skills’ OT group
- Through dialogue and active listening, seek opportunities to raise clients’ awareness of the benefits of sustainable lifestyle choices
- By seeing the whole person, distinct from illness and with valid roles, tap into clients’ sustainable development knowledge, skills and attitudes to build your own capacity and facilitate active partnership within the therapeutic relationship
Within your setting/dept
- Get your MDT colleagues involved and set up a ‘green’ reps group in your department
- In partnership with stakeholders, service users and colleagues develop a sustainability policy in your setting/dept/community
- Use CPD as a vehicle for exploring sustainable development
- Carry out sustainable development audit/ research /pilot study activities in order to transform service provision in your setting
- Engage your managers in dialogue regarding the sustainability of equipment, media, and other resources procured for the service
- Work with colleagues to develop understanding that good OT is sustainable OT and therefore sustainable OT is good OT
Within your organisation
- If there is one, join the environmental steering group at the organisation and introduce colleagues to the holistic values of OT and their significance to the sustainability agenda
- If no environmental steering group exists at the organisation explore avenues to establish one
- Explore opportunities for addressing the key areas of the Sustainable Development Unit’s carbon reduction strategy
- Contact the Chief Executive of the College of Occupational Therapists and request that the College get on board with a sustainable statement for the profession
- Join the Occupational Therapy Sustainable Practice Network (OT Susnet)