Carbon critters

For parents: If you want to talk about how we are responding to climate change with your child, we hope this information is helpful. If you want more detail, you’ll find this on the pages about our Carbon pie.

We would like you to meet our ‘carbon critters.’

They are here to help you learn about what we need to change, and what we’re doing.

They show you how much carbon goes into the air because of each of the different things we do (our ‘carbon footprint’).

A bigger monster means a bigger footprint and more trouble for our planet.

You can see Brick and Furnace are our really big problems.

A collection of cartoon characters representing our carbon emissions

You can learn more about them below. Keep an eye out when you’re visiting - you might be able to spot them around the hospital.

How our hospitals affect our planet

Looking after people who are ill means we need to use special medicines and equipment. We also have to make our hospitals comfortable and safe when people need to stay.

Doing these things is important.

However, to make the things we need and to make everything work, we often do things that release gases that aren’t good for our planet.

The commonest gas released is carbon dioxide, usually from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil or natural gas. That’s a problem.

And it’s not just us.

Keeping our homes warm, farming the food we eat, powering the cars we travel in, flying on holiday and making and moving the things we buy all release carbon dioxide and other gases.

Scientists now know that these gases are making our planet very sick.

It is getting hotter and this is making our climate change. You can read more about it on BBC Newsround.

Unless lots of people make changes very quickly, it will be harder for people to grow food in the future. There will be more flooding, particularly for people who live near the sea. Really bad weather will happen more often. More places will be too hot for people to live there, and more people will get poorly. Lots of the plants and animals that make our world special could disappear.

We need to look after our planet better to stop this.

Our promise

Everyone needs to do their bit, and that includes us at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS.

We want to make sure that what we do makes the harmful levels of these gases in our atmosphere go down. We’ve promised to do this by 2045, although we want to do this quicker if we can.

We need to find new and better ways of doing things so we can look after our planet at the same time.

We have a plan to do this. We have a plan to shrink each of our carbon critters.

How we’re shrinking our carbon critters

Carbon Critter character Brick Brick

Our biggest monster is Brick, stomping in at one third of all our carbon emissions! One in every three bits of the carbon we make is Brick’s.

Brick stands for the carbon that goes into the atmosphere when we build new buildings, and when we serve food in them (yes, we think it’s a bit odd to put these things together too, but this is how the NHS asks us to count our carbon).

Making bricks and other building materials requires a lot of energy. The chemical processes used also releases dangerous gases.

These heavy materials then need to be transported to our site, often from a long way away, releasing more carbon.

Producing food needs energy, land and transport. Some foods, like red meat, can add a lot more carbon to the atmosphere than growing plants to eat.

We’re shrinking Brick by;

  • Reusing existing buildings whenever we can
  • Making sure we use better materials when we need to build
  • Looking at how our menus and the way we buy our food can change

You can help by thinking about what you eat, and finding out about lower carbon foods.

Carbon Critters character Furnance Furnace

Our other really big monster is Furnace, representing about one quarter (1 in 4 chunks) of all the carbon we make.

Furnace is all about how we heat and power our buildings. For the last twenty years, we’ve burnt oil (a fossil fuel) to make heat, hot water and power for both our big hospitals. We also buy electricity from the ‘national grid,’ just like the electricity that comes to your home.

When we started doing this, it did less harm to our planet than other alternatives because we could use spare heat from making our electricity to keep our buildings warm. However, UK electricity is now much greener. That means our local power plants aren’t the best idea any more.

We’re dealing with Furnace in the same ways you would at home;

  • Improving our insulation and ventilation so we don’t need as much heating (and cooling).
  • Changing our lights to LED lighting, and turning off electrical devices we aren’t using.
  • Buying more energy efficient equipment.

We also have a plan coming soon to heat our buildings in a much better way.

Carbon Critters character Smog Smog

Smog’s carbon footprint comes from all the travel and trips linked to people using our hospitals. This includes patients and their families, visitors and our staff.

Shrinking Smog is something we can’t do on our own. We need everyone’s help. We need people to think about how they travel, and we need the people who plan our city to make it easier to use public transport and to walk or wheel.

We’re also;

  • Encouraging people to use public transport
  • Making walking and cycling to our hospitals more fun
  • Using video appointments to reduce the need for unnecessary trips to the hospital

You can help by having a go at walking or wheeling for short trips. With less people using their cars, our city becomes healthier and easier for everyone to get around.

Carbon Critters character Spark Spark

The carbon from our medical equipment is captured by Spark. We use big and small machines to work out what is wrong with people and to help make them better.

Lots of these are very complicated to make, and use special materials. They also have to travel a long way to get to us when they’re finished. Added together, that means Spark represents about one in every ten bits of carbon we create as an organisation.

Making Spark smaller needs us to;

  • Reuse and repair equipment whenever we can, and ensuring we properly recycle things when we can’t use them anymore.
  • Make sure what we buy will be easier to reuse, repair and recycle.
  • Work with the rest of the NHS to help invent better equipment for the future.

Carbon Critters character Pillpot Pillpot

You won’t be surprised to know we use a lot of medicines in our hospitals to help people get better. Pillpot represents the carbon that is needed to make, transport and use these medicines.

Stopping Pillpot being a problem is really tricky.

Making people better, and looking after people, is very important. It is amazing that we have incredible medicines to help do that.

So we need to find ways of reducing their carbon footprint whilst still helping people get better with the medicines they need;

  • We’re making sure we only give people medicines they need.
  • We’re making sure people know how to use their medicine so they get all the benefits.

We’re working with the rest of the NHS to look at how new drugs and new ways of making drugs can reduce the amount of carbon they create.

Carbon Critters character Techno Techno

We use lots of computers and other equipment to run our hospitals and to help our teams.

Making these computers, and sending information between people, uses a lot of carbon. That means that even though this is only a small part of what we do, Techno’s footprint is still more than 5% of our total (1 in every 20 bits of the carbon we make).

Shrinking techno needs us to;

  • Make sure we buy the right equipment
  • Work with the people who make our equipment to see how we can make less carbon
  • Reuse and repair equipment wherever we can


Carbon Critters character WhiffWhiff is another tricky monster for us.

Their footprint includes the gases we use to help people sleep comfortably during an operation (an anaesthetic), and the gases used in inhalers to help get the drug where it needs to go. Like Pillpot, these are really important, and we can’t just stop using these gases.

But there are things we can do to make Whiff much smaller.

  • Use different medicines and machines to reduce the amount of anaesthetic gas we use, whilst still allowing someone to sleep happily during their operation.
  • Use special machines to get rid of any waste gas before it can leave the hospital and get into the atmosphere.
  • Our doctors and nurses will make sure you’re on the best inhalers for your condition.

You can help us by learning how to use your inhalers well so you get the best effect from the medicines you’ve been given.

Carbon Critters character Scrappy Scrappy

We currently make a lot of waste rubbish as a hospital. To stop infections and bugs, we sometimes have to use things only once and then throw them away, like gloves, plastic aprons and bandages.

We also have to wrap things up to keep them clean, and lots of things we use come in packaging.

Some of the things we have to throw away need to be burnt to make sure they don’t hurt anyone, and that uses a lot of energy and releases more carbon into our atmosphere.

We also use a lot of water as keeping things clean is very important for us.

Just like at home though, we’re trying our best to stop making as much waste to make scrappy smaller;

  • Nothing we throw away goes to landfill, and we are getting better at recycling and reusing.
  • Making sure that only rubbish that needs to be specially burnt gets sent away to be burnt.
  • Seeing if we can replace things we’d only use once with things we can carefully clean and reuse.
  • Dealing with water leaks and looking at how we can reduce the amount of water we use.

Carbon Critters character Clog Clog

Clog is Smog’s tiny sidekick.

Clog’s footprint is for travel that is part of how we run the hospital. This doesn’t include how people travel to and from work, but would include how we transport stuff between our different buildings.

Whilst Clog is very small, we’re not ignoring their carbon footprint;

  • We’ve bought an electric van to make these journeys
  • We’re looking at how we can use bicycles and cargo bikes more
  • We’re helping our staff choose planet-friendly options when they travel to visit someone

Our promise to shrink the monsters

We’re determined to shrink our carbon critters and do our bit for the future.

We want you to have a planet that is healthy and getting better when you are grown up.

We’ve promised to shrink these monsters right down so they aren’t having any impact on the planet by 2045.

We’re focusing on the green monsters to start with, and we are going to shrink them right down by 2032, and make them go away by 2035.

Dealing with the blue monsters is a bit trickier, so we think we need until 2045 to make them go away.

But we don’t have all the answers yet, and we can’t do this on our own.

So if you have a good idea, we would be excited if you wrote us a letter, drew us a picture or sent us an email so you can join our team and help us reach our target.

A boy holds a box of recycling he has collected