Roses are Red, Polypropylene Sterilization Wrap is Blue

Roses are Red, Polypropylene Sterilization Wrap is Blue

Remember your 3 R’s from school? No, not Readin’, Ritin’ and Rithmatic :).

If you’ve been around the blog, you know that Reducin’, Reusin’ and Recyclin’ are listed in order of importance, with much bigger bangs for reduce and reuse. With that, I have a great story to share from our friends at the Radiation Therapy Green Team.

P.S. Stay tuned for next week’s interhospital competition for Waste Reduction Week.

the following excerpt is by Veng Chhin on the Therapost

This year the Waste Reduction Week is Oct. 15-21, 2018.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Weeks in Canada started in the mid-1980s with a focus on the environment and sustainability.  This principle can be practiced all year round!

Brachy and Gamma Knife teams are already practicing waste reduction on a daily basis.  Every day they are saving the blue sterilization wraps for recycling and repurposing.  The wraps are clean and have not come into contact with any contaminants.  They are made up of linen fiber and polypropylene materials and are very durable for repurposing.  For example, arts & crafts, drop sheets for painting, car seat covers for pets, can be sewn into multi-purpose bags, etc…

blue wrap bag

blue wrap makes for a great reusable bag!

This means less waste going into landfills, helping to keep our world cleaner, and improving sustainability. It’s a win-win!  If you want to give it a try, you are welcome to these wraps, which are saved in a cabinet located in Cobalt Lounge near the central recycling area.

blue wrap-patricia

Patricia demonstrates the many fashionable uses for blue wrap

Read the original story by Veng Chhin on the Therapost


I’se the B’y That Went to CHES

UHN had major representation at this year’s national CHES (Canadian Healthcare Engineering Society) conference, which was hosted in St. John’s Newfoundland (hence, the blog title). I was honoured to speak at the conference discussing some preliminary energy results of TGH’s new central cooling plant. I was lucky to share the stage with our former colleague, Chad Berndt, who was the mastermind behind the project. Chad is now working with the company that delivered the project, Enwave Energy Corp.



The presentation focused on the process of the project from initial data collection to approvals to design and construction to preliminary results. There was a heavy emphasis on data-based decision making as well as some of the key issues tackled by the new system, including:

  • Energy cost stabilization
  • Increased system capacity
  • Improved system reliability
  • Redundancy and resiliency of hospital cooling systems
  • Reduction in CO2 emissions
  • Simplification of building operation

Chiller Plant Renovation Project Process

You can read more about the technical information related to the project here. I would like to focus this blog on the huge energy and water savings that have been achieved. Check out the graphs below that show our utility consumption for our base case year, 2015, compared to data from summer 2018. On all three of the charts, you will notice a bump in May. There was an unusual heat wave very early in the year that required us to run chillers before the deep lake system was fully online. It is also important to point out that these charts are not weather corrected and, in fact, 2018 had 48% more cooling degree days compared to 2015. It follows that during a typical year, savings would be higher.

Electricity Peak Demand Savings:


Electricity Consumption Savings


Water Savings


These preliminary savings results suggest that the project is on the right track to outperforming the conservative estimates of $22M savings over the life of the project. I will post an update to the blog with final savings numbers upon the completion and approval of the final measurement and verification report.


What are people Saying?

The facilities operations team provided feedback on the project, including “the deep lake is rockin” and given the extreme heat, “the system really saved us this summer.” Even senior management took notice:


Celebrating GROW(th)

Hi everyone! My name is Nicolette and I am an Environmental Science student at the University of Toronto, and new Sustainability Intern at UHN.

As one of my first official tasks, I had the pleasure of representing the Energy & Environment Team at TRI-Bickle’s 2nd Annual Urban Agriculture Day last Friday. Home to one of UHN’s community gardens, Bickle’s GROW (Garden Rehab on Wheels) has custom height planters and wheelchair accessible paths that enables patients to participate in gardening as part of their rehabilitation. The group meets once a week, and together with dedicated volunteers and staff members, the patients are able to go outside and tend to the garden during the warmer months.

The end of the summer Corn Roast is chance for staff members and patients to come together to celebrate their hard work and enjoy the garden’s final few weeks. The event also welcomed patient families and community members to tour the garden and learn about the project.


Patients, staff, and volunteers enjoying the day’s festivities

This year, the event proved a huge success as the group managed to collect over $410 in donations! All donations will go toward the 2019 garden. Not only that, but GROW was recognized by the Toronto Urban Grower’s ‘Best in GrowTO’ competition, earning the award for Best Pollinator Patch and the Runner Up award for Best Container Garden.


Members of the Garden Group pose with their awards

This being my first time at Bickle and seeing the garden, I can’t help but marvel at the incredible sense of community the entire team shares. Everyone helped play a role in Friday’s festivities, as patients were tasked with shucking the corn and picking fresh herbs from the garden, while staff brought in supplies and cooked the delicious corn.

The event also featured a bake sale with plenty of treats using Bickle’s own garden-grown ingredients. Rhubarb oatmeal muffins, pepper and chive pita bread, and zucchini chocolate chip cookies, to name a few, all proved to be a huge hit (I would’ve taken a picture but ate mine too fast, oops). The contributions of everyone helped ensure the event ran smoothly and that everyone who stopped by had a wonderful time.


Patients and staff shuck away at the corn. Paula Cripps-McMartin gets the corn roasting!

A HUGE shoutout to Amanda Beales, a Registered Dietician and interprofessional Educator at Bickle! She runs the day-to-day garden operations and is the main organizer of this event. More shoutouts to the whole Bickle Garden team including (deep breath) Paula Cripps-McMartin, Dr. Ling, Susan, Fermina, Elzbieta, Fahreen, Nooshin, Pema, Elizabeth, Ann, Annette, Ana, Patricia, Gaby, Joe, Julia, Maria, Anthea, Lynda, Angela, Jackie, Deep and many more. Spending just a few short hours at Bickle has shown me how much patients and staff value the garden and its (many) benefits!

Thanks to everyone at Bickle for hosting me. I can’t wait to see what the 2019 season has in store for the Garden Group!


Can We Talk?

Can We Talk?

On this sweltering September day, with Florence and Mangkhut lashing their paths of destruction, I can’t help but think about the hot and steamy elephant in the room … climate change. The scary thing we all talked about “in the future” is here, clearly. There are so many ways I could do something about it, but sometimes I don’t know where to start.

I am not alone, and as luck would have it, neither are you.

We are incredibly psyched and proud to bring Carbon Conversations TO to UHN!


What’s it all about? Taking Climate Action this Fall

If you feel overwhelmed, stressed and unable to take action when you think about climate change, Carbon Conversations TO gets it. They are here to help.

We have asked Carbon Conversations TO to host a weekly series of 2 hour conversations, 6 sessions in total. This will give us the tools, support and motivation so we can take action in our own way. Even better, they’ll do taster sessions so we can sample it before committing to 6 weeks. light refreshments to be served. 

Get a taste of what we’re all about. Join our interactive information session.

Pick either time that works for you…

  1. (new!) Thurs, Sep 27: 4:30 – 6 pm, Toronto General Hospital, Wellness Centre 1NU168
  2. Thurs, Sep 27: 6 – 7:30 pm, Toronto General Hospital, Wellness Centre 1NU168


Interested in joining the Fall series? (I know I am). The sessions will run Thursday evenings, October 25  – Nov 29, 4:30 – 6:30 PM, Wellness Centre at TGH. Though the taster sessions are free, the 6-week program costs a nominal fee of $60. The small fee ($10/session) will not only cover costs, it helps ensure people attend :).

Light refreshments to be served

Can’t wait to chat with you soon!

carbon - group.jpg


carbon - logo

Questions? Reach out to the Carbon Conversations TO team.


(Hospital) Food For Thought

This past Monday I had the pleasure of participating in “Food on the Public Plate: Lessons from Canada, US and Denmark”, an event put on by Nourish and hosted by the MaRS Solutions Lab.

It was a chance to share the work UHN’s Energy & Environment Team has done looking into local food at UHN, assessing hospital readiness for climate change’s impact on food, as well as some of the existing and planned gardens we have.

Continue reading

Finding that Sweet Spot

Hippo-Brindabella-web620-Victoria Zoo

We saved 2 tonnes of ice packs from landfill, the equivalent of one hippopotamus.  image credit: Zoos Victoria

When 8 million tonnes of plastic is entering the ocean each year and 27 soccer fields worth of the world’s forests is being lost every minute, it may seem like being “sustainable” is far from reach. While it may be true that human activities are threatening the world as we know it, its not true that we aren’t doing anything about it.

Around the world, countries are developing solutions to cope with these non-linear issues. I would like to highlight in this blog post one of the efforts made during my short time here at the UHN to combine the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability –to try and find that sweet spot.

Well, I guess I should start by introducing myself and what I do here. My name is Rachel (a third year UWaterloo Biology student) and I am the current sustainability co-op student. Aside from the shut the sash program, which has continued to be an excellent energy (and cost) saving program, I have worked on the ice pack recycling program. Every week our research labs at UHN receive hundreds of frozen ice packs in order to keep perishables at their required temperatures. Most of these end up in landfill waste, or worse … biohazard bins! That literally means burning ice. A much better solution is to send them back to the vendor so they can be reused.

rachel-Accepted Ice pack signage

The thing is, new ice packs are cheap, and recycling ice packs takes effort and coordination (which means cost). This is an example of when companies have to look beyond just the economic benefit of sustainability. Sometimes the main driver is social responsibility … companies must be responsible for the waste they create, as that has a major effect on the environment. During my term, there have been many ups and downs with this program. In the end, after ironing out all the wrinkles, we have a fairly stable take back program with New England Biolabs (NEB), Cedarlane, and FroggaBio.

Below is a graph of all the ice packs sent back to date (excluding the NEB ones since they have an even more robust program that takes back all of the packaging including ice packs). From January to mid August, over two tonnes of ice packs were returned to vendors and diverted from landfill!


We saved over 2 tonnes of ice packs from landfill – the equivalent of 1 Hippopotamus!

This program is an excellent case of how when someone is willing to push for change and to find that sweet spot, companies can care for all three aspects of sustainability and great things can happen.



BAS Schedule Control: Simple but Best


Almost all buildings, in particular hospitals, have a Building Automation System (BAS). It’s is like the brain of a building. BAS controls most HVAC devices, such as pumps, fans, boilers and chillers. It is an interconnected, centralized system of both hardware and software, like a central nervous system. BAS provides lots of benefits, including the ability to control your building from anywhere and improved energy management. It automates all your heating, cooling and air flow needs with minimum interference.


Quite a lot operators, supervisors and facility managers leave the fans and pumps running continuously. This might seem like a good idea  … the system works all the time and users would not complain any more. But this is not a good practice as the constant use will wear out motors, belts and pumps before their time. Maintenance cost will rise and the utility bill will rise even higher.

Like people, building systems need a break. The best way is to check how people use a building, and see if we can schedule control changes for the area. If an area is only used some of the time, say during business hours, we know we can power down HVAC units after hours.

We have to make sure the unit could be turned on when needed. For example, if the air handling unit is set to unoccupied mode, it does not supply any conditioned air to the space, but it will restart when the space temperature drops below the unoccupied heating setpoint or unoccupied cooling setpoint. Only when there is a good backup plan can users feel comfortable and support these energy-saving scheduling initiatives.

With schedule control, devices will run for less time. Usually we can turn it off over the weekend. Even if we need to run the unit 12 hours a day, from 7am to 7pm, we could still save 65% on the electricity of the motor. The savings grow when we factor in gas for heating or electricity for cooling.

Below is a simple trend chart for a unit.

As the unit was running continuously before, the electricity consumption was 170,792KWh annually.


After we implemented a weekday schedule, the power consumption dropped to 60,830 KWh. The users did not feel any difference.


Schedule control on an HVAC device is a straightforward and most efficient way to save energy. It could also extend lifetime of the equipment itself. That’s saving 2 ways … a real no-brainer.