The Great Case for Babies and Bathwater

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Like most expressions, though we know what it means…don’t throw out the good with the bad… we usually have no idea who started saying it or why.

Back in the olden, golden days when water, hot or otherwise, was scarce, bath time was a very shared family event. After fetching the water, boiling it and filling the cast-iron tub, the father of the household usually had first dibs (it was the olden days after all). After he scrubbed off weeks, months or years of muck, the rest of the family had their turn (do I hear a collective eeeewww?). Finally, the baby was bathed in the nastiest, murkiest, darkest of waters. The baby was pretty well-disguised in all that debris, and thus the expression was born.

There’s a handy little group, Operation Green, that’s taking this principle to heart by salvaging some really great stuff from our otherwise icky operating room waste. This great stuff is called “Surgical Overage”, items that were readied for surgery but never used, only to be sadly discarded. Not only does Operation Green keep these valuable supplies out of landfill, or worse…the incinerator, they ship it to developing countries that hardly have two bandaids to rub together. Now these countries have access to clean gloves, sutures, gowns, dressings, defibrillators or portable x-rays (it may be last-year’s model, but it’s still good). We save the hauling fee by not having these perfectly good supplies sent off as waste. And a kitten and a puppy play beneath a double rainbow…it’s that good!

The best part about Operation Green? It’s run by volunteers, very already busy med-student volunteers.  They’ve been saving supplies and sending shipment from UHN since 2010…enough to fill an operating room from top to bottom. A giant thank you goes to Alison, Kim and Sheron, our Operation Green volunteers. They’ve found worthy homes around the world for these supplies. They’ve also recruited new volunteers so that when they graduate, the program lives on.

Now it’s great that they’re here saving people and the planet simultaneously, but they need your help. If you work at UHN and know of good medical supplies that will go to waste i.e. if the powers that be insist on using a new doohickey model, let’s donate the old doohickey model before it collects dust in the supply room. Or maybe you’re heading on a medical mission and can bring some supplies with you. Or maybe you just want to share a pot of tea. Whatever your reason, contact them at The babies in the bathwater will thank you.

(addendum by OpGreen volunteers, Oct 16, 2013) Operation Green is a student-run initiative that aims to reduce the environmental impact of the healthcare field. With the support of dedicated UHN staff, medical students from the University of Toronto collect unused supplies and donate them to communities in need around the world. In addition to helping the environment and humanitarian efforts, diverting material from the landfill also provides healthcare savings that could be used in improving patient care. Since 2011, Operation Green has worked with humanitarian organizations such as GlobalMedic as well as individual medical professionals to achieve its mission.

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, donating materials, or inquiring about supplies for global health initiatives, please contact the Operation Green team directly at

8 thoughts on “The Great Case for Babies and Bathwater

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