Targeting climate action through research, innovation, quality, and collaboration.
Uniting researchers, healthcare providers, health systems, and industry to accelerate environmental and sustainability research
Uncovering opportunities for mitigation, resiliency, and decarbonization efforts within healthcare

The GreenHealth Lab at UCSF studies the interplay between healthcare delivery and climate change. We explore the impact of the healthcare system and health institutions on the environment, and the impact of climate change on clinical and patient care. Our findings help shape mitigation and adaptation efforts, improving hospital sustainability and creating more resilient systems and healthy communities. 




We research how climate change may reduce patient access to essential care, pinpointing opportunities for resilience-building efforts. For example, we are currently exploring how climate-fueled disasters (i.e. wildfires and hurricanes) interrupt cancer care.


We investigate the environmental impact of healthcare delivery (via life cyle assessment tools), exploring ways to make clinical care more sustainable without compromising outcomes. For example, check out our recent articles climate-smart oncology carehealthcare waste, and how to quantify oncology's "footprint"



i.e. How does climate change impact cancer care?...And, how does cancer care impact climate change?


Read more about the health impacts of climate change 

Climate change impacts on human health are well-documented and projected to further increase if mitigation responses remain inadequate. Rising temperatures directly exacerbate the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events including wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Such events threaten not only our ecological community but also the health of our population. As weather patterns change, the prevalence of vector-borne illnesses, contamination of food and water, reduction in crop yields and their nutritional value, and socio-political conflicts will continue to increase. Furthermore, diminished air quality and pollution will exacerbate and increase the prevalence of many health conditions, including respiratory disease and cancers such as lung, gastrointestinal, and skin. Climate change further magnifies health disparities, as the effects have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations (e.g., older populations, children, low-income populations, ethnic minorities, and patients with chronic conditions, including cancer) who are the least equipped to deal with these effects. 

Impact of climate change across the cancer care continuum:


Read more about the environmental impact of the healthcare system

In the United States, the healthcare sector currently accounts for about ~8.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, with a significant portion attributed to hospital care and physician services. Health damages caused by pollutants produced by the healthcare sector are commensurate with those caused by preventable medical errors. Sources of greenhouse gas emissions are classified into three scopes: 

  • Scope 1 emissions are those directly generated by a facility (e.g. from operating room anesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide and desflurane, potent greenhouse gasses)
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions via energy purchased through a utility company, such as electricity. 
  • Scope 3 emissions, the greatest source of healthcare emissions but also those hardest to track, are those generated by employee activities and the supply chain, such as product transport, waste generation, pharmaceuticals, and employee business travel. 

Healthcare produces significant emissions in all three categories. Transitioning towards climate-smart healthcare will require transformational change, including bolstering preventative healthcare and reducing instances of low-value, wasteful care. Organizations such as Health Care without Harm and the National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the US Health Sector have been working to actualize this transformation, but the health threats posed by climate change require all of us to apply a sustainability lens to every aspect of health care and health systems decision-making. 

Read more about quantifying healthcare emissions via life cycle assessments methodology

Life Cycle Assessment Methodology 

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an internationally-recognized tool to evaluate the environmental impact of a product or process over the course of its lifespan, from raw material extraction to disposal. The four steps of a Life Cycle Analysis are 1) Definition of LCA goal and scope, 2) Inventory analysis, 3) Impact assessment, and 4) Interpretation. These evaluations can identify aspects of clinical practice that have particularly high environmental impact and guide system-level decision-making to reduce waste, emissions, and often, cost. As an example, please see this LCA of hysterectomies led by collaborator Cassandra Thiel. 

Additionally, see our published protocol for quantifying the environmental impact of an essential component of care care, radiotherapy. 

Stages of a product's life cycle explored by a LCA: