As an occupational therapist and the owner of a small private practice here in Canada, I want to share some thoughts on a topic that’s been a part of my life for a long time: climate change.

The Intersection of Occupational Therapy and Climate Change

Climate change has been a concern of mine for over 40 years, and I’ve witnessed how it has become an increasingly significant part of the public dialogue. As healthcare professionals, we are dedicated to improving the quality of life for our clients. This commitment extends beyond individual care and touches on broader societal issues, including the urgent need to address climate change. You might wonder, how can occupational therapy impact climate change? Here are a few ways our profession can contribute:

An excellent playbook for sustainable occupational therapy has been created and can be viewed here: Sustainable OT Playbook.

Our Practice’s Commitment to Sustainability

At Sarah Good Occupational Therapy, we are committed to integrating sustainable practices into our work. Here are some specific steps we're taking:

Promoting the Role of OT in Preventing Downstream Health Care:

One of my primary roles as a community OT is to keep people out of the hospital. Being in the hospital increases a person's carbon footprint significantly—by as much as five times, according to a recent webinar I attended. Community OTs play a crucial role in preventing hospital admissions, while hospital OTs help facilitate safe transitions back into the community. This aspect of our work is essential in reducing the overall carbon footprint of healthcare.

Increasing the Sustainability of Our Operations:

Active Transportation: Whenever possible, I bike to see my clients. When I need to use a car, I schedule appointments with clients in the same area of the city on the same day to minimize travel.

Paperless practice: We use electronic medical records and assessment forms as much as possible.

Connecting People to Nature:

I have been making a significant effort to work with my clients outside. Research shows that spending time in nature increases the efforts people are willing to take to improve our ecosystem. I offer groups and 1:1 nature-based therapy sessions, as well as walk-and-talk therapy, which increases my clients' comfort with being outdoors and using active transportation themselves.

These actions align with the Sustainable OT Playbook’s recommendations, specifically items 1, 4, and 5 out of their ten suggestions. I encourage you to explore the playbook and consider how you can incorporate sustainable practices into your own work and life.