Healthcare coverage graphic 2021

The year in sustainable healthcare reporting

53,000 stories, give or take, with a focus on Covid, PPE and carbon emissions.

Let's take a look back at media coverage in 2021 on sustainable healthcare.

We promise, in 2022, to get more sophisticated in these analyses. But even a rough cut at the data yields some pleasant surprises.

For starters, our search of the LexisNexis database found 53,000 articles touching on sustainability and healthcare. The database picks up a lot of press releases and trade articles, so the number of "mainstream" reported articles that, say, our researchers at EHN.org would aggregate is considerably smaller.

Healthcare manufacturing & materials

healthcare manufacturing & materials stories

Still, within that pile we can find some insight. Our system sorted those articles into different clusters, based on an AI scan of the article text and coded by color, then plotted them on a timeline.

That colorful graph is shown above. The x-axis shows the months of the year, while the y-axis shows the number of stories published. Several trends are apparent.

The teal blocks at the base of each bar show stories focused on sustainable manufacturing and materials – about 15 percent of the coverage. That coverage was fairly consistent over the year.

Covid-19 waves

Healthcare COVID coverage

That's not the case for stories about healthcare systems getting swamped by Covid-19, right above the teal, in red blocks. Note, of course, that this is just the fraction of those that also mention sustainability or plastics or recycling; whether even these belong on this graphic is debatable, but what's sobering is that we saw just a brief, one-month ebb in the tsunami of coverage this issue generated – in June, when vaccines were rolling out and we all thought we had this pandemic licked.

Sigh.

Healthcare climate emissions

Far more positive are the purple blocks, showing stories about healthcare's carbon footprint, and – two blocks above those – the peach ones showing efforts to reduce healthcare's carbon emissions.

Note the big spike in coverage in November, when nations gathered in Glasgow for the UN climate talks (You may recall that some 50 nations – but not the United States! – pledged to reduce healthcare emissions).

Healthcare waste & recycling

Two final nodes deserve mention: The light green and yellow blocks between the two climate-related ones. They show stories focused on healthcare waste and recycling, respectively, and together they represent almost a quarter of the coverage – a number we at EHN.org found surprising.

We'll be out in 2022 with reports and analyses breaking apart the myth of recycling. But the attention the sector is giving to waste – and the attention that focus is getting in the media – is worth noting.

That's a quick look at the media landscape, and an imprecise one; again, our goal is to get you more detail over this next year, and to do what we can to increase the volume and depth of coverage, so we have more stories to analyze when we do this again at the end of 2022!

Happy New Year!

Subscribe to our healthcare newsletter, Code Green

Get our Code Green newsletter in your inbox - FREE!

A bi-weekly newsletter for people who care about reimagining health care, sustainably.
Better than coffee.

climate justice
Credit: Unsplash+

Op-ed: Farmers of color need climate action now. The farm bill is our best hope.

Farmers of color who are leading the charge for regenerative farming, as they have done for generations, need our support now more than ever.

As summer heats up, we all find ourselves wondering, how hot will this one be?

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less

Hurricane Beryl highlights vulnerabilities in Houston's infrastructure

When Hurricane Beryl struck Houston, it revealed significant weaknesses in the city's ability to withstand even a mild hurricane, leaving millions without power.

Dylan Baddour reports for Inside Climate News.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump denies knowing about Project 2025 crafted by his former officials

Former Trump officials, including senior energy and environmental appointees, have created Project 2025, a policy blueprint for a potential second term, despite Trump claiming no knowledge of it.

Robin Bravender reports for E&E News.

Keep reading...Show less

Lawmakers investigate potential shale collusion affecting federal land leases

A group of Democratic lawmakers is investigating if shale oil companies colluded to manipulate oil prices, potentially affecting their federal land leases and operations.

Sharon Kelly reports for DeSmog.

Keep reading...Show less

Climate change increases health risks with extreme summer heat and wildfires

Rising temperatures and wildfires fueled by climate change are posing significant health risks across Canada, with humid conditions exacerbating the effects.

Shannon Waters and Emma McIntosh report for The Narwhal.

Keep reading...Show less
Paris green Olympics aspirations
Credit: nicolas michaud/Flickr

Paris repurposing landmarks in quest for green Olympics

The Paris Olympics promises minimal new construction, using the city's iconic landmarks to create sustainable and visually stunning venues for the Games.

Oliver Wainwright reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
WATCH: Enduring the “endless” expansion of the nation’s petrochemical corridor

WATCH: Enduring the “endless” expansion of the nation’s petrochemical corridor

As mounds of dredged material from the Houston Ship Channel dot their neighborhoods, residents are left without answers as to what dangers could be lurking.

US Steel pollution

Nippon Steel shareholders demand environmental accountability in light of pending U.S. Steel acquisition

“It’s a little ironic that they’re coming to the U.S. and buying a company facing all the same problems they’re facing in Japan.”

Another chemical recycling plant closure offers ‘flashing red light’ to nascent industry

Another chemical recycling plant closure offers ‘flashing red light’ to nascent industry

Fulcrum BioFuels’ shuttered “sustainable aviation fuel” plant is the latest facility to run into technical and financial challenges.

nurses climate change

Op-ed: In a warming world, nurses heal people and the planet

Nurses have the experience, motivation and public support to make an important contribution in tackling the climate crises.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.