Waste.  It comes in many different forms.

There the night a couple of weeks back that I stayed up way past my bedtime watching different live versions of Elbow’s My Sad Captains on YouTube.

There’s what I considered doing to my federal election ballot several times over the past couple of weeks by writing in “Josh Donaldson (or Jose, or Tulo, or…) for Prime Minister”.

Jose and the Chipmunk

And of course, there is the natural product of all things livings which, because Mother Nature has had a long time to perfect such an intricate and efficient ecosystem, isn’t really waste, but food for something else.

Then there is the waste that people produce…and there’s a lot of it.  At UHN we threw out over 14 million pounds of stuff last year, that’s equivalent to four African elephants disposed of per day or, for those looking for animal waste imagery a bit closer to home, over 3,500 chipmunks disposed every hour.

“Just hang on a second”, I hear you saying, “you’re always talking about recycling this and recycling that…we recycle…what’s the big deal about waste?”

Well, it’s true, UHNers recycled almost 68,000 chipmunks last year, but that still means that two-thirds of our elephants did not get recycled.  And more importantly for all our waste, be it recycled or not, it’s not just the waste we’re throwing out that we need to think about, but all that waste that was created in making and sending the waste to us in the first place…not to mention the money we waste buying that waste, and the other money we waste throwing the waste out once we’ve wasted it.

Now, for sure, a lot of the waste we produce at UHN is for a good reason – helping our patients and making UHN safe – but as an environmental type person who’s probably eternally doomed to never walk past a garbage bin without taking a quick peek in, I know there’s a lot of waste we can do without, from disposable coffee cups, to that 45 page report printed single sided (in colour, nonetheless) that you forgot to pick-up from the printer.

As for the waste we create in helping our patients…well, since my only medical training is the occasional episode of Grey’s Anatomy (can you believe that show is still on?!?!) glimpsed through peripheral vision (won’t catch me admitting to actually watching the show), the last thing I’m going to do is try to tell any of our amazing caregivers how to do their job.  Instead, I’m going to link you to what they did at TWH’s 9A, where a simple poster is helping reduce the amount of supplies brought unnecessarily into patient rooms, only to be thrown out when the patient leaves.

And then I’m going to point you to what some surgeons, including those from TWH’s Department of Neurosurgery, are doing to reduce waste, save money, and still provide world class care.

And then I’m going to go back to my refillable travel mug, not printing stuff, and turning off the lights…and maybe, just maybe, if I have a little extra time tonight, I’ll check out some more Elbow videos…

Go Jays,