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.

solar power schools

Solar power at Pennsylvania schools doubled during the pandemic

“If this growth continues, schools could set Pennsylvania up as a clean energy leader and not just the fossil fuels we’re known for.”

NORTH BRADDOCK, Penn.—On Wednesday evening, 10th grader Abby Wypych stood in front of Woodland Hills School District’s board and urged them to approve a feasibility study on installing solar panels.

Keep reading...Show less
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.

Is it still ethical to collect butterflies for science?

The last 30 years have seen the rise of butterflying, a spiritual sibling to bird watching that involves identifying and photographing the insects rather than capturing them.

Europe accepts Putin’s ruble payment system to avoid gas cutoffs

European energy companies appear to have bent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that they purchase natural gas using an elaborate new payment system, a concession that avoids more gas shut-offs and also gives Putin a public relations victory while continuing to fund his war effort in Ukraine.

For a 7th year, a busy hurricane season is expected

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects an “above normal” Atlantic hurricane season this year, the agency announced on Tuesday. If that plays out, it would make 2022 the seventh consecutive year with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.

Ethiopia's ‘false banana’ could solve climate change induced food shortages: Study

A fruit often referred to as the "false banana", found in Africa, has the potential to solve food shortages that could be induced by climate change and drought, said a new study.

Chandni Singh: In India’s heat wave, air conditioning is the divider

In India, higher temperatures are coming earlier and staying longer every year. The most vulnerable are bearing the impacts of this prolonged heat now. Those who can cool will cool, those who can’t, cope.

Los Alamos team models drought, climate change on the Colorado River

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory modeled future drought indicators to gauge how climate change could impact the Colorado River Basin.

From our Newsroom
roe v. wade

Derrick Z. Jackson: Roe v. Wade draft bodes ill for air, wetlands and the EPA

Justice Alito’s longstanding consistency in wanting to restrict EPA authority makes it transparent where he wants the court to go.

environmental justice

Op-Ed: Black gold and the color line

How historical racist redlining practices are linked to higher exposures to oil and gas wells.

Our mothers' gifts: Readers respond

Our mothers' gifts: Readers respond

We asked you to share one "big lesson" your mother gave. And you responded

Lake Mead

Dykstra: A corpse in a barrel in a drying reservoir

And other climate change tales for our age

A mother's gift

Gifts from our mothers

What one "big gift" did your mother give you? We want your story.

Bird photography

Earth Day 2022: Amidst the crises, don’t forget the beauty

Words and images from our founder, Pete Myers, on how bird photography keeps him connected to and curious about a planet in peril.

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