Justin does it all at TRI Bickle Centre
Justin does it all at TRI Bickle Centre

I always look forward to Earth Day. Not just because it gives this great green/blue marble its due, but because by April 22, the hopeful spring blooms promise warm summers (and the all-important tradition of pints on the patio and cottage weekends). Even with this year’s crazily harsh winter, there was a tiny hint of green.

We here at UHN have much cause to celebrate, especially as our green team has grown to over 600 members. The trick is that we’re scattered across different sites around the GTA, and in these giant hospitals & rehab centres, there’s lots going on already.

Deanna wins a BIXI membership at Toronto Western Hospital
Deanna wins a BIXI membership at Toronto Western Hospital

By some bizarre coincidence, Earth Day coincided with Volunteer Appreciation Week and an Organ Donor registration drive by Trillium across St. Mike’s, SickKids & UHN. Another coincidence, the colour Trillium used for all balloons, decorations and displays was green. Some staff complimented us on the nice decorating job we did for Earth Day (while looking at their displays). I said thanks  and briefly thought about leaving it at that, but then let them know. We’re all for it. After all, isn’t organ donation is one of the world’s best examples of reuse and recycling? I even registered myself.

TRI-University Centre with Prakruthi and me
TRI-University Centre with Prakruthi and me

So while all of these things were going on, we set up shop in the lobbies at Toronto General and Western Hospitals, and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, just like last year. The big news was adding 2 Toronto Rehab sites to the mix. Bickle Centre and University Centre both represented! And both of those green teams grew as a result.

By the numbers: A giant thank you goes out to the 23 green team volunteers that got this going. Thanks also to the 39 staff who said “Ya, I’ll join the green team” and volunteered on the spot. Thanks to the 125 staff who played the guessing game, and to the countless more that lingered just a moment to learn a thing or 2.

Lue-Ann Swanson at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

In case you missed it, our booths had oodles of info on energy conservation i.e. giving a flick, recycling, composting, and the 20 great green ideas you may remember from our  Revolutions series. And who knew that in addition to being enviro-champs, those green team volunteers know how to work a crowd.

But my favorite addition was a guessing game designed by our very own Chad Berndt. The focus? Coffee.

The game asked how many coffee cups would it take to stack to the top of the hospital. We had guesses ranging from 200 to 2 million.

The Answers?

(drumroll please)


  • Toronto General Hospital: 500 cups
  • Princess Margaret Cancer Centre: 754 cups
  • Toronto Western Hospital: 469 cups

Why’d we ask such a question? We noticed that one of the most common sites in the corridors is people wandering around with coffee…mocha-lattes, half-caff-grandes, or simple double-doubles. Though some bring reusable mugs (and get mighty discounts), most get disposable cups. These usually end up in the trash. If you drink a coffee every day, it only takes 5 months for just your cups to stack to the top of Toronto General. And if you drink 2 cups a day, it’s only 2.5 month. So why not not lug a mug, or at least recycle your coffee cups (recyclable at UHN in the metal/glass/plastic/containers recycling)?

Congratulations to Peter Rakaric, Tanya Williams, Deanna Baker, Helen Cao and M.G. …all great guessers who won either a Bixi membership or coffee gift certificates.

Toronto General Recycles!
Toronto General Recycles!

Earth Day Canada says “more than 6 million Canadians join 1 billion people in over 170 countries in staging events and projects to address local environmental issues. Nearly every school child in Canada takes part in an Earth Day activity.”. That’s a pretty serious honour that we hope has some staying power year-round. So how did you celebrate? If the answer is “I didn’t”, it’s not too late to do something…maybe over coffee?