Commander Brian Boxall Hunt, Chief Executive at The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, discusses how care homes can reduce their environmental impact.

In the fight against COVID-19, single-use plastics have become a massive part of our daily lives, helping to protect our communities from the virus, but having a serious impact on the planet. In 2020, it was predicted that the UK would see an extra 66,000 tonnes of contaminated waste from face coverings alone. This is why it is now vital that, whilst the virus still poses a threat and personal protective equipment (PPE) is still required, we must do all that we can to reduce our plastic consumption wherever possible to make a change.

In recent years, and before COVID-19 was even in our vocabulary, plastic pollution was high on the public agenda, with David Attenborough highlighting the seriousness of the issue in 2017’s Blue Planet II and supermarkets such as Waitrose pledging to eliminate unnecessary plastic, making all own-brand packaging reusable or made out of widely recyclable or home-compostable material by 2023. Here at The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, and our nursing care home Belvedere House, we’ve taken great steps to reduce our impact on the environment as best we can.

In 2019, the NHS paved the way for the UK health sector by announcing its aim to cut the use of up to 100m plastic products from its hospitals including straws, cups and cutlery. With the health and social care sectors both requiring the use of single-use plastics for general care duties, along with the PPE now required in medical and care settings, it’s important that plastics can be reduced wherever possible and that we implement innovative strategies to reduce our environmental impact.


At Belvedere House, we began making a conscious effort to reduce our plastic consumption back in 2019 and have since prevented more than 52,000 plastic cups and 22,000 wet wipes from reaching landfill by rolling out a sustainability plan for the home. The plan included small changes such as switching from single-use plastic cups to reusable ones that can be washed aſter each use and the introduction of washable cloths in place of wet wipes. These simple changes not only helped to prevent unnecessary waste going to landfill, but also reduced the Society’s costs and allowed the money saved to be redistributed back into the charity.

Reducing our single-use plastic consumption where possible is just one of the steps the Royal Alfred team has taken to limit our environmental impact; we have also invested heavily in green technology. As a facility that supports 68 residents with round-the-clock care, our overall energy usage can be quite high and we were keen to assess how we could reduce our carbon footprint as well as our costs. As a charity, we are fortunate to have access to grants and funding to support

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our needs and, over the last few years, we have utilised our funding to invest in green technology including solar panels, making Belvedere House more energy efficient whilst reducing our electricity bills by 15%.

Alongside the introduction of solar panels, the Society also installed a sustainable pellet-fired biomass boiler which has reduced gas usage by around 20%, while the introduction of a 135 metre borehole will supply fresh water to the home at a projected saving of £8,000 per year once up and running later this year.

“In 2019, the UK was the first major economy to pass a net

zero emissions law which set us a target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.”


In 2019, the UK was the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law which set us a target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050; this was revised in December of last year to reduce the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030. This inspired the Royal Alfred team to make a change – and still does – to ensure we can do all we can to cut emissions and we’d love to see other facilities and businesses come together to do the same. Something as simple as charging 5p for plastic bags in 2015 resulted in a 90% reduction in single- use plastic carriers and it’s small changes like this that, if we all contribute, can make a massive difference.

As a not-for-profit organisation, we must manage the challenge of keeping costs down where possible, while delivering an outstanding level of care to our residents, prioritising their safety, health, happiness and wellbeing. Whilst we know we must continue with the use of PPE and face masks for the time being, it’s really rewarding to know that the changes we’ve implemented so far not only reduce The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society’s environmental impact, but the money saved can be invested back into the home and directly benefit those in our care.


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