It is no secret that global warming is affecting our planet, and it is also no secret that carbon dioxide emissions has a lot to do with it. In 2013, CO2 emissions hit 36 billion tonnes – a record high for annual human emissions.


To help tackle this growing problem, governments across the world are urging us all to reflect on our own individual carbon footprints and think of ways to reduce CO2 output in our daily lives.


If you work in the medical profession, besides the obvious factors like travelling to work by public transport rather than car and being economical with lights, your choice of medical scrubs and how you maintain them could also play a key role in helping you lower your carbon footprint.


When you buy a pair of scrubs, you probably have nothing else on your mind but finding a medical uniform at a suitable price. However, have you ever considered how the material being used to make these scrubs could be affecting your carbon footprint?


The vast majority of scrubs today are made using either a polyester/cotton blend or, in cheaper products, 100 per cent polyester. Now, while polyester is very affordable, it is also made from petroleum, which is a by-product of processing oil. Also, polyester is not the best material in the world when it comes to durability and will not last as long as other materials such as 100 per cent cotton scrubs.


Some materials that are much more eco-friendly and have greater longevity than polyester include bamboo scrubs – which is grown without pesticides and is naturally antibacterial – and organic cotton scrubs are coloured with natural or vegetable-based dye.


As well as the material and construction, the location of manufacture is another important consideration when choosing scrubs that are environmentally friendly. It is no secret that many of today’s leading clothing brands are made in China and the wider Asian continent – India, Bangladesh, etc. Medical scrubs are no different.


The two leading industry brands – Dickies and Cherokee – both outsource the manufacture of their medical wear and many others do the same. The simple reason for doing this is that it is cheap – material and labour costs less.


While scrubs made in Asia are generally cheaper to buy, their impact on the environment is much greater than scrubs that are manufactured in Europe and the UK. Not only does the making of scrubs in such high volumes result in greater pollution – the clothing dye proving the biggest problem – the shipment of products, first to the US and then to Europe is also a significant carbon footprint issue.


On average, a plane produces about 244 pounds of carbon dioxide for each mile it flies. A flight from Shenzhen in China to Washington DC in the US is approximately 8165 miles, meaning the transport of scrubs can result in 1.9 million pounds of CO2 – almost 1000 tonnes. And that is without the further shipment of items to Europe.


There is a simple way to avoid being part of this carbon footprint and that is to buy scrubs that are manufactured in the UK or Europe. While they are not as widely available as Dickies or Cherokee, there are brands such as Eldan who are based in Poland that have a much smaller carbon footprint. When shopping around, pay special attention to where brands are made and look for something manufactured close to home.


One of the best ways to be environmentally friendly around the home is to use the washing machine less. Of course, if you wear scrubs to work this is not always possible. Scrubs must be cleaned after every shift to remove germs and clear away any stains – without a clean pair you will probably not be allowed to work.


Foregoing washing your scrubs is not an option but there are ways to keep your uniforms clean and help lower your carbon footprint in the process.


The first thing you could do is switch the dial on your washing machine from 40-degrees to 30-degrees. Modern detergents are powerful enough to wash just as well at lower temperatures and you will be using 40% less electricity in the process.


Another option is to wash all your scrubs together on your days off, rather than on an ad hoc basis. Obviously, you need to have enough clean pairs of scrubs to last throughout the week to do this, but a full load is much more economical than washing scrubs one pair at a time.


Finally, consider making the switch to environmentally friendly detergents and non-polluting products such as Eco-balls,


Scrubs might only play a small part in your carbon footprint, but when it comes to saving the planet, even the littlest changes help.