Green walking: a model of sustainable healthcare

The current global ecological crisis threatens to irreversibly alter the conditions under which human civilisation has evolved. Within the decade, the whole world – including healthcare – must change to become sustainable. We now need to reshape health services to provide the best health outcomes for patients and populations from the wisest use of environmental, social and financial resources:

value = outcomes for patients and populations / (environmental + social + financial impacts)


Green walking applies the principles of sustainable clinical practice

In mental healthcare, sustainable value may be achieved through:

1. Prioritising prevention, thereby reducing the need for health care in the future.

2. Empowering individuals and communities, improving mental health resilience through self-management and independent living, social networks and employment.

3. Delivering the right intervention, at the right time, to the right person. 

4. Considering the carbon impacts of interventions and models of care to enable design of carbon efficient services.

(See Joint Position Statement on Sustainability in Mental Healthcare, 2015)

In the right circumstances, Green Walking embodies all of these principles: contributing to prevention of future ill health, offering a means of self-management, improving resilience and enhancing the inpatient pathway,  all at a minimal environmental cost.


Green Walking and the ‘triple bottom line’

Green Walking scores well across the ‘triple bottom line’ of environmental, social and financial resource use:

  • Environmental: Green walking makes use of an abundant, low carbon, natural resource with potent therapeutic value: green spaces. By spending time in and noticing what is around us, we can actually benefit the environment by developing our connection with nature, learning to cherish and protect it.
  • Social: Green walking strengthens social connections and restores social capital - including among staff, who not only benefit directly from the activity itself, but also take satisfaction from developing meaningful connections with patients and witnessing their steps to recovery.
  • Financial: Finally, green walking is inexpensive, relying primarily on the time of existing salaried staff, with few additional costs. Meanwhile, it contributes to patients’ recovery and, potentially, their resilience to future (expensive) mental health crises.