Clean Air Commute Winner Charmaine Silva
Clean Air Commute Winner Charmaine Silva

Well, the numbers are in and it’s official…UHN had our absolute Best! Year! Ever! with the 2012 Clean Air Commute. In case you missed the last gazillion blog posts on sustainable transportation and the Clean Air Commute, here it is in a nutshell (apologies to those with nut allergies, there is no better metaphor). The Clean Air Commute is a week-long event by our friends at Pollution Probe to encourage people to get to work by something other than driving alone…think Active like biking  and walking…or Group like public transportation and carpooling …or Tech like telecommuting. People register their clean commute online for a chance to win some amazing prizes, and a little friendly competition to see which workplace is the greenest and cleanest.

Not only did UHN have its best year ever, so did the Clean Air Commute. Gaggles of workplaces across the GTA, Ontario and other parts of Canada joined the 20th Clean Air Commute fun from June 18-24. 257 workplaces participated compared with 189 last year. And with their smog calculator, they figured out we all avoided releasing 555 tonnes of pollutants, even better than last year’s 480 tonnes. Did it help that they had fantastic prizes like mountain bikes, eBikes, yacht rides and dugout level Jays tickets? No! (and I’m not just saying that because I didn’t win any of them, not that I’m bitter or jealous or anything).

How clean were we? We had a record 740 staff register on line, up from 596 last year. That’s some great progress from our first Clean Air Commute 10 years ago with 303 keen, clean staff. Toronto General had the most participants at 297. Princess Margaret had 145, followed by Toronto Rehab with 137, Toronto Western with 107 and 54 others that work elsewhere. Way to go UHN!

Special congratulations to Charmaine Silva, a research analyst at PMH who won the sleek, black mountain bike for her participation. Unfortunately, the rest of the sexy prizes were won by participants at those other 256 workplaces (begrudging congratulations are in order).   

There are lots of ways to clean up your commute. Brian McCarthy, a coordinator in Cardiology Research at TGH, actually lives way out in Peterborough. He used to take the Greyhound for hours each day (which would still be good). Now he extra-greens up his transportation by renting a room downtown for his Monday to Friday workweek and avoids the long commute altogether.   

And though we’d reduce our greenhouse gas emissions if everyone called in sick, we really don’t endorse that (what if your replacement drives a Hummer in from Hamilton?). But what about our patients who travel to us? With many of the best, brightest minds in medicine worldwide working here (not to toot our own horns, but…), some folks way up in Northern Ontario need our help and can’t get here.

Enter the UHN Telehealth program  who calculated what their 66 patients saved that week by consulting specialists over live video conferencing instead of driving into town. Try 56,381 km not travelled, 940 hours not wasted on traveling, $7,048 worth of gas not used, and 13.8 tonnes of greenhouse gasses never emitted. Kudos to Dana Chmelnitsky and her Telehealth team!

Now just in case people think we are on a rampage to smite out cars wherever we see ‘em… relax, hit cruise control and check out our very special session. Our EcoDriver Lunch n’ Learn by the surprisingly entertaining folks at Windfall Ecology Centre was packed full of carbon dioxide-saving goodness. The goal was to teach drivers nifty tricks to save at the pumps. One way is how they drive i.e. drag race-style acceleration is a gas-sucking menace…same with uselessly gunning it towards a red light for a stomach-lurching stop (shocking, I know). Keeping your car perky and well maintained also takes a load off.  And we learned how to measure fuel efficiency when buying a car, i.e. do you really need the 7-seater for your family of 3 on the off chance of a road trip with your mother-in-law and her 3 cousins? (that might be an excellent reason why not ;-)).

Though the Clean Air Commute is just one week (otherwise, they’d run out of prizes pretty darn fast), the point of it all is to make people think about what they do every day all year round. However you get to work, there’s always a chance to make that trip a little fresher. The planet and your wallet will thank you.