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Introduction: Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing society today. Hospitals have substantial carbon footprints and are one of the most significant contributors to waste production, yet environmental sustainability is woefully overlooked in healthcare. Understanding the state of environmental sustainability in healthcare is critical to improving the sustainability of medical practice.

Methods: A systematic review of the current literature regarding environmental sustainability in hospitals was conducted in the PubMed research database. In addition to the systematic search, reference sections of included papers were searched to identify additional papers. Studies needed to be focused on research related to environmental sustainability in hospitals in high income countries. Studies that specifically addressed waste, recycling, or education programs within hospitals were included in our search.

Results: In our search 327 items met initial screening criteria. Waste management and recycling tended to be more commonly practiced when staff members were motivated to curtail their waste and understood how to dispose of their waste properly. Various studies demonstrated education programs can be effective, particularly when they have specific goals and clear training protocols. Implementing system-wide programs have shown to be effective in some cases, while many other studies focused on smaller scale improvements within the operating room.

Conclusion: Waste management education programs have the potential to substantially reduce waste output when implemented, both reducing costs for the hospital and cutting the environmental footprint of healthcare. It is feasible to implement low-cost education programs within hospitals to improve waste management and recycling practices.