Healthcare coverage graphic 2021

The year in sustainable healthcare reporting

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.

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

Spain air conditioning crackdown set to take effect

The government has declared that businesses will not be allowed to run their air conditioning below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), part of a broader effort to save energy as Europe contends with record heat and races to cut its dependence on Russian gas.

Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Coal-rich Poland faces winter of energy discontent

After banning imports of Russian coal in April, Europe's largest coal producer, Poland, is now suffering a shortage. As prices soar, Warsaw is scrambling to find emergency solutions that could speed up its coal phaseout.

Dry, hot summers put Dutch dikes at risk | Europe

Often made of peat, dike walls are more likely to dry out and become unstable due to lack of rain. After weeks of drought and intense summer heat, the Netherlands has declared a state of emergency.

Congress just passed a big climate bill. No, not that one.

A bipartisan act is quietly about to invest billions in boosting green technology.
Gitxsan house group declares new protected area in northern B.C.

Gitxsan house group declares new protected area in northern B.C.

An intact ecosystem in the upper Skeena River watershed is now an Indigenous Protected Area. All decisions about the area will be guided by a principle of respectfully passing the abundance of the territory from one generation to the next.

Lakes Mead and Powell and biggest Western drought in history
Don Barrett/Flickr

DRIED UP: Lakes Mead and Powell are at the epicenter of the biggest Western drought in history

Nowhere is the Southwest’s worst drought since the year 800 more evident than Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the pair of artificial Colorado River reservoirs whose plunging levels threaten major water and power sources for tens of millions of people.

From our Newsroom
Colorado fracking

How Colorado is preventing PFAS contamination from the oil and gas industry

And how other states, including Pennsylvania, could do the same.

fracking kids health

PFAS: The latest toxic concern for those near fracking

The “forever chemicals” are used by the oil and gas industry, but a lack of transparency and accountability makes it impossible to know how widespread contamination could be.

supreme court climate change

Op-ed: Reflections on the Supreme Court’s Decision in West Virginia v. EPA

Danger resides in the majority’s having invoked a sweeping “Major Questions Doctrine” to justify its decision in this relatively narrow case.

children health

Derrick Z. Jackson: Children will suffer the consequences of recent Supreme Court rulings

A rash of recent decisions by the high court will irreparably impact our children's health.

summer reading list

Our annual summer reading list, 2022 edition

Happy 4th of July! Here's some summer reading picks from our staff.

environmental injustice

Centering biodiversity and social justice in overhauling the global food system

“The food system is the single largest economic sector causing the transgressing of planetary boundaries.”

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