One person’s trash is another one’s treasure … a pretty fair comment if you pass any of the gazillion yard sales each summer weekend. Some things on offer are questionable at best (hello Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer), though I did score a snazzy backpack-style picnic basket. It brims with promises of bikerides and strolls followed by al fresco wine and cheese, all local/organic of course. The family that sold the picnic basket had those very same dreams, but after years of anticipation and neglect, they realized it needed a new home to be used and loved. With that, the picnic basket’s second chapter began.

All things deserve a second chapter (and people do too, but that’s a whole other article). There are the obvious environmental savings; not piling on the ol’ landfill (some predict Toronto’s will be full by 2026), not wasting fuel to haul it there in the first place, not having to mine/harvest/produce as many virgin materials to make new things … and you probably know a bunch more 3-R friendly reasons. There are pages and pinterest boards all dedicated to cleverly, creatively repurposing the old to become something new and exciting (loving this guitar bookcase, MUCH better than listening to me play an actual guitar).

image credit: 43 Ways to Reuse

Noted in the Great Case for Babies and Bathwater, there’s a brilliant little group, Operation Green, taking this second chapter principle to heart by salvaging useful stuff from our operating room waste. No, we’re not talking bloody gloves or bandages; we’re talking nice, clean “surgical overage”. This is the stuff readied for surgery but never used, only to be discarded (sniff). Not only does Operation Green keep these valuable supplies out of landfill, or worse…the incinerator, they ship them to developing countries that hardly have two bandaids to rub together. Now these communities have access to clean gloves, sutures, gowns, dressings, defibrillators or portable x-rays (maybe last-year’s model, but still good). We save the hauling fee by not having these supplies sent off as waste. And puppies and kittens frolic beneath a double rainbow … it’s that good.


Operation Green saves medical supplies like these saved by the Cell Therapy Lab at PMH
Operation Green saves medical supplies like these saved by the Cell Therapy Lab at PMH

Sometimes hospitals have pretty big things on offer. Think of those 113 kg (250 pound) hospital beds. These have a lifespan of around 15-25 years, then new models come in. The old models often have lots of life left in them, though they may not adjust as nimbly as they once did (who does?). When there’s not so much life in them, they’re still valuable as scrap metal (attempting not to draw personal analogies here).

Toronto Rehab Institute has a new plan for the their retired hospital beds. Stewart Dankner, Director of Facilities has partnered with a medical supply company to ensure our next batch of beds helps a medical clinic in Libore, Niger. This medical clinic is the sole provider of healthcare to a population of around 24,000. They could use some beds. And when our new batch of beds arrives in the fall, we’ll make sure our old ones go to that good and necessary home.

We as an organization can also be the second chapter to someone else’s gently used things.  Janet Hall, an Infrastructure colleague of mine right around the corner, does just that when she purchases furniture for UHN space planning. Janet started using a purveyor of fine used office furniture in an effort to be green ecologically and save many lovely green dollars too. Janet gave me a great example:

I recently installed 7 cubicles that would normally cost us $21,000 if we purchased them new – I paid $5,565 for the same product (well, actually a little better quality than what we normally purchase).

With that, it’s time to ride on the wheels of my favorite bike and pick up a wheel of my favorite cheese; a nippy, creamy “Nanny Noir” (not to worry, this isn’t blatant product placement … ahem … Upper Canada Cheese Company … ahem … samples, please). A little fermented grape juice might complement it perfectly. The picnic basket awaits its purpose.


Happy second chapters to one and all,