Do you need a bag with that? – Talkin’ Trash, October 2017

UHN produces a lot of waste – over 45,000 pounds a day. Recycling and waste reduction are good for the environment, good for our health and save UHN money, so it’s worth it to get comfortable with your organization’s recycling, composting & waste reduction programs and, even better, take our Waste Reduction Week Interhospital Challenge.

A Can In the Bluebox Is Worth Two…

The thing about clichés is that we’ve used them so often that they’ve lost their meaning. Not mention that clichés often contradict each other…like “the early bird gets the worm” and “good things come to those who wait”,  and sometimes they can mask serious issues…sure, the early bird gets the worm is meant to be a good thing…unless you’re the worm.  And don’t get me started about “out of sight, out of mind”.

Too late…you got me started. But first…a bit of animal recycling (Editors note: in the spirit of good ol’ behind covering, please note that no animals were recycled during production of this newsletter. Instead, their images are being used to demonstrate equivalent weights because what the heck does a tonne of garbage look like anyway?).


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How do you measure up?

The online world is chock full of quizzes to figure out things like which Game of Thrones character you are or what your favorite colour says about you. These are fun, but do they really tell us anything (other than Brienne of Tarth, and that turquoise = balance & creativity)? How about a quiz with a bigger picture in mind?


The King/Queen of all Reusable Mugs! The Silver Stein of Sustainability! The Interhospital Winners trophy.

Enter the Inter-hospital Challenge for Waste Reduction Week. Before we get to that, let’s look at Waste Reduction Week (WRW), held across Canada, October 16 – 22. It encourages us to conserve natural resources through the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle … not Rubbish, Ruin & Restrict. Yes, I love my Thesaurus :).

Behold the CN Tower light up blue and green (like the planet we all know and love) on Monday to kick-off Waste Reduction Week in Canada. Each day has a theme. Day 1 will focus on the Circular Economy, then go to Textiles Tuesday with a massive pop-up clothing swap at Nathan Phillips Square. For a peek at the rest of the week, Wednesday celebrates innovators & champs, Thursday focuses on plastics, Friday is food waste, and the weekend features Swap/Share/Repair.

Back to the nail-biting, second annual Inter-hospital Challenge between University Health Network, SickKids,  Sinai Health System, and new to the table is Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. If you work or volunteer at any of the above location, let’s play!


The challenge is easy … 2 minutes to answer a 7 question quiz, and find out how green you are: The site with the greatest participation rate will win the top prize. There are also individual prizes at each site. The quiz is open from Oct 16 – 29, giving an extra week to celebrate. Last year had over a thousand entries. How about we double that?

Earn extra credit by getting caught “green-handed.” Send in a picture of you and/or your colleagues practicing the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. You may pose with your reusable coffee-mugs, hug your blue bin … feel free to get creative. E-mail your photos to or tweet #WasteFreeUHN.

Not at UHN/SickKids/Sinai/Sunnybrook? No problem. For toolkits (school, business or municipality) and events across Canada, see the tremendous resources at by our friends at the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO).

And I’ll leave you with some good brain food on the subject: “The Story of Stuff:

May this be the year we all get our stuff together.

Can you find it? Navigation for Building Automation

computerUser interface is how the user interacts with the machine. The whole point of having a good interface is to make it simple for the user so they can easily navigate through the system and not get lost.

The building automation system is the “communication hub and nerve centre of a building’s mechanical systems”, as Mike said in Because I’m All About the BAS. It’s much like your programmable thermostat at home, but with a lot more information and many alarms if something isn’t quite right. This automated system needs human interaction … and this is where a good user interface comes in.

The user interface of the building automation system at Toronto Western Hospital was a little tough though. As UHN kept retrofitting the mechanical system over the last few decades, the building automation system was constantly adding information. Because of the complexity of the system, it is not easy for the user to locate a unit.

For example, if we want to access air handling unit AHU-1 which serves the ICU area in Fell Pavilion, we need to go through the following steps to find it. (by the way, we have more than 10 AHU-1 serving different areas).


If we want to access to another AHU-1 serving Cardiac Catheterization area, we need to go through these steps…


As you can see, different system are placed in different places. For users who are not very familiar with the building and not familiar with the graphics, it is easy to get lost. Below are another two examples:

The AHU1 serving medical imaging department has no access via the building block. You have to do this instead…



Similarly, if you want to access to the chiller plant, try these different step…



We decided to change it to make it easier for the user. Below is the change of the main welcome page.

First is we got rid of other buttons in the welcome page and kept links to each building only.


Next, we moved all systems in one page if they are physically located in the same building. We also added links to other buildings so the user do not have to click on the home button every time.


The user could click on the link and see the schematic of each system. Links are also available in the same page for serving floors.


This is a good step, but more work needs to be done to better organize the system. We have heard positive feedback from the shift engineer that it is now much easier to navigate the system. We will keep improving and make the system more user friendly.


Bike Like Mike

There is no better time of year than now to ride your bike to work (or to the gym, or to the grocery store, or just for fun)! Fresh crisp air and cool morning temperatures help to ensure you won’t end up a sweaty mess on arrival. Biking regularly can help you get in shape, feel better, improve your health, and it’s just plain fun! Check out this TED Talk about the awesome ways that biking can change you.


I’ve been meaning to write a blog on biking ever since the large expansion of Toronto’s Bike Share system this summer. I’ve been a Bike Share member for about 5 years, going back to the days when it was known as Bixi Bike. Every time there is an expansion to the system, it opens up the city a little bit more. Expansions have added bikes directly outside the front door of UHN offices at Lucliff Place as well as a short walk from Toronto Rehab’s Bickle Centre at Queen Street and Close Ave. With stations also in front of TGH, TRI-UC, TWH, and PMH, UHNers all over the city have great access to the system. As part of the recent expansion, stations have been added in the west end along the lake shore trails and in the east end, expanding further into Scarborough towards the Beaches and along the Danforth subway line.

I use these bikes all the time (44 rides in September) to get around faster and cheaper than any other transit infrastructure. There is nothing more satisfying than flying by a bunch of road raging single occupant vehicles and getting to your destination faster than you could have if you drove, took the TTC, or walked. In August, I was returning from Europe and traveled home from Pearson using the train to Union and Toronto Bike Share – total travel time from the plane touching down to my couch with a cold beverage was 1 hour and 8 minutes, including waiting for that guy blocking everyone from getting off the plane while he rearranges his bag in the overhead compartment for 15 minutes! Total cost: $9 for train. Bike share membership is only $90 per year, so if you are using it in place of TTC or cabs even semi-frequently, it pays back fast. With a membership, bike trips under 30 minutes are free.

With more and more safe biking infrastructure cropping up in the city, even “normal” people are starting to see biking as a good option. Our fearless leader, Ed, has also recently jumped into the fray, although I don’t support references to the most annoying song Queen ever made!

Another benefit of biking in the cooler temperatures of fall is that we will start to see less and less of this unfortunate sight:

Empty Bike Share

Bike Share station suffering from “summer syndrome”

Although the bikes are clunky and the stations might be empty the odd time, I love the convenience of never having to worry about any of the following:

  • my bike getting stolen
  • purchasing an expensive lock and carrying it around
  • carrying around other items that are commonly stolen, such as bike seat, lights, wheels, etc.
  • storing a bike in my small apartment
  • greasing chains and other maintenance

If you are thinking of becoming a first time Bike Share member, you should know that your Presto Card will get you 40% off your first year! That means a whole year of biking would be only $54 or less than half of a one month Metropass. You can’t afford not to try it! Check out this webinar for all you need to know about Presto.

With the end of Smart Commute Month coming up on October 6th I would like to challenge you to continue your smart commute beyond this month. Continue to reduce your reliance on single occupant vehicles and improve your health, fitness, and sanity! From my experience, the growing Toronto Bike Share system is a convenient and affordable alternative. I hope you give it a try and join me out there in a bike lane near you.

How did you get here?

Not a big philosophical question, but a very literal one: how did you get here? Unless you live at work (lighthouse keepers, that’s you), you must have traveled somehow. Because no city, especially not Toronto, has roads with room for an infinite number of cars, hopefully that journey was sustainable … think carpooling, transit, biking, walking, telecommuting, anything but an SOV. If yes or no, we have an event for you … Smart Commute Month! on now til Oct 6.

To help make this city flow, our friends at Smart Commute are trying to find out the nitty gritty details of how we go (or don’t go). The more that answer the survey, the better. Ask any researcher, and they’ll tell you about the need for statistically significant data … not just the opinions of 3 people in the same spin class. Luckily, there are already over 3,500 respondents across Toronto, but we could use way more. There’s a special honour for the workplace that responds the most (pretty please, let that be us!). The survey is open till October 6.

They will make it worth your while, with 2 prizes of VIA Rail vouchers worth $300 each!!! And yes, the train is definitely a good way to go.


Beyond the survey, they have a few Webinars you can catch for the low price of free. Webinars are by definition, a type of telecommuting, so you’re really walking the talk (or clicking on the talk) with these. Click the links to register:

Smart Commute Month will culminate in a celebration of sustainable commuting with Best Commute Day TO! On this day, we encourage commuters to walk, cycle, take transit or carpool to work. They can join the conversation by snapping and sharing a photo of their commute @SmartCommuteTO.


Safe (and sustainable) travels to you.

Key Links

Link to the survey

Full contest details

Webinars: Carpooling/car sharing  and  All about Presto

Smart Commute Tool

In respect of farmers….

Susan and Elbonne, a patient at Bickle, enjoy the corn roast for Urban Ag Day

Hi everyone, guest blogger Amanda here! I’m a Registered Dietitian and Interprofessional Educator at TRI’s Bickle Centre, and I’ve had the pleasure of coordinating our “GROW: Garden Rehab. On Wheels” project this year.  While munching on some locally grown corn at Friday’s Urban Agriculture Day event, I took some time to reflect on the season that we’ve had… and all I can think of is that golden saying, “if you ate today, thank a farmer.” We are professional therapists, clinicians and hospital support staff, but when it comes to gardening and urban farming, we are amateurs.  Our corn is stunted, our peppers never grew, and I will be looking up green tomato recipes tonight because I don’t think ours will ever get rosy red.  Farming really is a science.

So, despite not getting a ‘bumper crop’…. would we do it again?

In a heart beat.

This garden is so much more than just vegetables to us.

It is a connection to food. It is fun to see octogenarian patients comment, “I never knew that’s how that grew!” and staff comment, “I never thought to mix fresh herbs into my salad, this is delicious!”

It is also a connection to each other.

We surveyed the patients in our weekly gardening group halfway through the series of sessions. When asked what they liked the most about the group, it was not “my weekly salad!” as we might have guessed. Most responses included the theme of “I like being with the others in the group, and gardening is a great thing to talk about.”  This theme was consistent with staff as well.  As one staff member put it, our garden is like a community hub.  Teamwork and collaboration happen when you stop to pick some beans with your colleague on your way into work, and laughter happens when you realize the squirrels have re-planted your neat rows into a hap-hazard zig-zag pattern.

IMG_0305[1]Of course, we’ve learned so much from our personal and shared experiences, and seen growth in our skills and abilities. We saw magic happen with respect to growth and colour when we added compost—with worm poop- to our planters halfway through the season.  We have nicknamed our most experienced staff garden group member the “fairy godmother of the garden,” and she has taught us that the more beans we keep picking, the more that will grow.  And, we have brought our new found skills home with us.  Many staff garden group members have commented that this project has inspired them to start a garden at home—Registered Dietitian Lisa Behnke notes that her balcony-grown kale is doing amazing!

So, while we may still need a professional farmer to make up the bulk of our diets at the Bickle Centre, you can bet that we’ll still be back at it, GROWing next summer!

I Want To Ride My Bicycle (To Work): A Back To School Mid Year’s Resolution

For many, myself included, the first week of September is marked by the dreaded (or celebrated – depends on your perspective, I guess) “back to school”. But for me this year I’ve decided to mark the week with a new tradition…the Mid Year’s Resolution.  You see, a funny thing happened to me this summer; for the first time in around 10 years, I started regularly cycling to work again…and with the return to school I’ve decided that I’m going to stick with it.

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