Random Thoughts and Observations of a Re-cycled Cyclist

So, it was about a year ago that I started, after a 10-ish year hiatus, cycling to work again (aka re-cycling?)…and while I’m still not at the point of cycling around town for day-to-day living (I’m more of a walker) or hopping on a bike when travelling (aside from the occasional beach ride to get ice-cream), I have over the past few months collected a number of random thoughts and observations:

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Earth Week Results & the Tale of Trash

During our Earth Week extravaganza, we collected ballots filled out with people’s favorite Green Team Ideas and the bin fact that they found most surprising. Over the course of the week, hundreds of ballots were collected. Excitingly enough, 5 people joined the Green Team on the spot! Without further ado…

The top 3 Green Team ideas were:

  1. Bickle Grow Garden,
  2. ABI Green Team, and
  3. Turn off lights/devices initiatives

The top 3 most surprising bin facts were:

  1. Coffee cups (Ed. the cups are trash in the City of Toronto, but are recyclable at UHN, though it’s always better to lug-a-mug. The lids and sleeves are recyclable most places) 
  2. Straws/Styrofoam (Ed. at UHN these are both garbage, while the City of Toronto will recycle Styrofoam)
  3. Coffee pods (Ed. these are garbage, even the ones that say “recyclable” – as recyclable means take the unit apart > trash the lid and filter > compost the grounds > rinse out the cup > then recycle the cup … a lot of steps for a “convenience” product)

Speaking of bins, that brings me to my next topic: the waste stream. At UHN, waste goes through a specific process to ensure that it ends up in the right place. All of the hospitals have mixed recycling except for Toronto General (TGH) and Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower (PMCRT) who have separated recycling. Mixed recycling is when all of the recycling goes in one bin. Separated is when there is a bin for metal/glass/plastic items and a separate bin for paper/cardboard products. Regardless, these bins are lined with clear bags so that recycling and garbage can be distinguished (Ed. 1 exception: TRI uses black bags in garbage).

Housekeeping collects the bags and takes them to the waste room where it is then picked up by waste handlers and taken to the loading dock. At this stage, it can look like recycling is being lumped together with the rest of the garbage. However, the clear bags allow it to be separated out again once it reaches the loading dock. It is important to note that heavily contaminated recycling will interfere with the sorting process down the line, so it must be considered garbage. This is why it is so important to throw your waste into the right bin.

At the loading dock, each bag is sorted into the appropriate bin or compactor. Depending on the site, and what kind of recycling it has, there may be many or few different compactors. For example, these photos taken at TGH, showcase many different recycling bins.

Below we have the general waste compactor and the organics bins. The bin with the yellow lining is an empty hazardous waste bin, about to be taken to a waste station near a unit. There are special processes for dealing with hazardous waste depending on what type it is (eg. biomedical, cytotoxic) and they are kept completely separate from the rest of the waste stream. From here the waste is picked up on garbage day and taken where it needs to go. To see the next stage, read our deep dive into waste streams.

I hope that a better understanding of the waste disposal process will help make UHN a greener place.

Happy recycling!

4 wheels or 2? We’ve got something for you…

Now that the weather is warming up, it’s a great time to dust off your bike and ride. For many of our readers, there’s never not a good time to ride, even on the chilliest winter day. Good for you if you fall in that category.

Whether you’re hardcore or fair weather, we have something for you this BikeMonth.


2 wheels: bring it!

May 28: Bike To Work Day:  


Alex and Lisa on bike to work day

For everyone: Bike month always kicks off with “Bike to Work Day”, a day where we ride our bikes to work, and can enjoy a group ride and breakfast event at Nathan Phillips Square.  Register to participate in Bike to Work Day at http://www.bikemonth.ca/biketoworkday and you’ll qualify to win 1 of 3 prize packs of $500 gift card to MEC and $500 voucher from VIA Rail!

May 31: Safe Cycling 101 – Noon – 1

For everyone: Online course to learn everything cyclists need to know about biking with confidence in Toronto. Topics include: equipment and bike fit, safe riding techniques, rules and responsibilities, interactions with others, choosing your route and more. Register here.

June 7: Advanced Bike Maintenance: – Noon – 1

For UHN Staff: Live/in-person demo/workshop at Toronto General Hospital. Expert bike mechanics will provide an in-depth focus on up to two topics, identified in advance, such as fixing a flat tire, repairing a chain and/or crank, replacing or repairing brakes, or adjusting derailleurs. Bring your bike for hands-on learning. Register here

June 14: Road Rules 101 – Noon

For everyone: Online course to learn about cyclists’ rights and responsibilities when interacting with others on the road in this interactive quiz-style workshop. Topics include: laws and fines that apply to both cyclists and drivers, sharing space with pedestrians and other road users, common misconceptions about turns, parking, passing, right of way and more. Register here.

June 21: Road Rules 101 Live – 12:30 – 1:30

For UHN Staff: Live/in-person session to learn about cyclists’ rights and responsibilities when interacting with others on the road in this interactive quiz-style workshop. Topics include: laws and fines that apply to both cyclists and drivers, sharing space with pedestrians and other road users, common misconceptions about turns, parking, passing, right of way and more. Workshop at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Register here

4 wheels? No problem

If you drive regularly, wanna do it smarter?

The Smart Drive Challenge is a free (we like that price) national program that teaches you to drive so you get better gas mileage. Not only will you save big bucks, your car will emit less of those nasty greenhouse gases which cause climate change. Bonus, it makes for a safer and smoother ride. SmartDriveChallenge.ca has online courses, tips and tools on smarter driving techniques, low and zero emission vehicles and alternative modes of transportation.

So, if you want to save fuel, money and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, get with the program. Did we mention free?

And we can’t mention cars without a plug for carpooling and a plug for EVs (which requires an actual plug). 🙂

A Skylight to Light Up Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

At the centre of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM) is 2-level atrium separated by a huge and beautiful skylight on 7th floor.  Every year, there are numerous events such as Music in the Atrium, fund raising, seminars, etc. on 7th floor around this skylight area.  More than 20 years ago when people constructed the building, they wanted to make this skylight as aesthetically pleasing as possible.  They picked tiny metal halide bulbs so that the light fixtures did not look bulky.  They also tried to hide all the wires and ballasts.  The job was done quite well as planned, and looked wonderful.

Unfortunately, they did not plan for how operators would maintain those lighting fixtures (like any other equipment in our hospital, they don’t last forever and require regular maintenance).  The wires and ballasts are hidden somewhere below and around the skylight, which is very hard to reach.

20180123_095321Figure 1: Nowhere to Find Wires and Ballasts for Existing Lighting Fixture

Without appropriate Continue reading

Green Teams, part 2 … where sustainability is contagious (in a good way)

Though we in healthcare usually try to avoid contagion, this is the positive kind, where 1 good thing begets another. Following last week’s theme featuring 5 UHN green teams, we have even more to showcase. Speaking of showcases, check out the Earth Week photos on our Facebook page! Points if you can find 1 picture of Mike without his trademark thumbs-up.

Meanwhile, back to the green team. This entry just missed the Earth Week display, but I’m thrilled to feature it here! As always, REUSE is even better than recycling, and a lot, a lot, a lot better than landfill. Stick a fork in that.

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Re-Using Virox Containers to Grow Plants

Re-Using Virox Containers to Grow Plants

Working as a Radiation Therapist at the Princess Margaret, I spend my days in the basement, so I always look forward to stepping outside to catch some natural light.  This is why I love the spring!  With the warmer weather comes gardening season.

I always liked the idea of Continue reading

Green Teams … where sustainability is contagious (in a good way)

Hands down, the best part of my job is working with the UHN Green Team. The +700 staff across UHN volunteer their time to make their areas more sustainable. Sometimes they lead quietly by example, nudging their colleagues into eco-friendly ways. Other times, they make a big ol’ green splash! I could lavish many flowery paragraphs of praise but better yet, let’s show you … starting with the first 5 (more next week).

We’ll start with the ABI team getting rid of expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam). At UHN, Styrofoam is not recyclable (though it might be in your municipal collection … see why here).  Studies also show Styrofoam is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen“. ABI now uses a recyclable paper cup … I’ll drink to that!


Christine in the GIM team has also Continue reading