Sustainable healthcare case study: Together towards zero: Hunter New England Local health district's learnings and experience

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) will be carbon and waste neutral by 2030 as part of the ambitious initiative, Sustainable Healthcare: Together Towards Zero. They will be working hard over the coming years to achieve this green vision and take their place as an industry and community leader in sustainable health care.

The problem

It is estimated that 25% of all human diseases and death in the world is attributed to environmental factors including extreme heat, drought, poor quality air and natural disasters, and that children will suffer more than 80% of the illnesses, injuries and deaths attributed to climate change. Healthcare contributes 7% of total CO2 emissions in Australia.

Climate change is affecting the Hunter New England (HNE) region, particularly through increasing temperatures. Projections show temperatures are expected to keep rising, rainfall patterns will change, there will be more hot days and heatwaves and fire weather will increase. These events impact service delivery, leading to vulnerable people’s medical conditions worsening, possible loss of life, emergency presentation’s increasing, and a surge in paramedic services.


  • To develop a whole-district carbon and waste-neutral strategy.
  • Empower every individual across this large, complex health system to feel they contribute to achieving the strategy. 
  • As the biggest employer in the region, they want to drive change in the market and display public leadership while creating a movement of sustainability.

The process

The Sustainable Health Care: Together Towards Zero strategy outlines HNELHD's commitment to achieve carbon and waste neutrality by 2030, a first for any local health district (LHD) in NSW. The strategy focuses on six areas: energy, waste, water, transport, procurement, and infrastructure, with 2030 targets including: 

  • Zero electricity from non-renewable sources. Reducing by 10% per annum from baseline 100,000 MWh.
  • Zero general waste to landfill. Reducing by 10% p.a from 3,400-ton baseline.
  • Decreasing water consumption by 50% from water utilities.
  • Rainwater captured and reused at all HNE facilities.
  • Capturing and reusing water in all renal dialysis sites, with potential savings of more than 30 million litres across the district. 
  • Zero CO₂ from HNE Health fleet vehicles.
  • Adopting procurement standard ISO24000.
  • New buildings meet a minimum five green star rating.

Data is collated systematically from suppliers, reporting the organisation's sustainability performance. Through the data, they track progress towards their goals and ensure that they are meeting their commitments while holding themselves and others key stakeholders accountable. 


The outcome

  • Largest hospital solar installation – SDG 7: John Hunter Hospital has the largest solar panel installation of any hospital in the world. The 2.4 MW system will generate 3,328,200 kWh per annum, abating their carbon emissions by 2,700 tons annually.
  • Recycling renal dialysis byproducts – SDG 6: Clean, excess water produced as a byproduct of renal dialysis is being put to good use at Tamworth Hospital. The $15,000 investment reduced water usage by 46%, saving the hospital 2.5M liters of water.
  • Reducing desflurane by 71% – SDG13: HNELHD has reduced use of desflurane by 71%, saving 10 tons of  CO₂ and approximately  $1M per year without compromising patient care. 
  • Recycled roads and carparks – SDG 9 and 12: The New Maitland Hospital development is the first in NSW to utilize the high-recycled-content asphalt Reconophalt.
  • Acknowledge the values of environmental Aboriginal stewardship and have developed and maintain a collaborative relationship with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

This full case study is available here

Congratulations Hunter New England Local Health District! Thank you for your sustainable healthcare leadership!