Though an atlas clearly shows lines between countries, provinces and states, no one told the wind, water and wildlife that they’re supposed to stay on their side. Case in point, the strange creature we found hiding in our garage that looked like a rat but was the size of a cat. It turned out to be a possum (or opossum, if you wanna get technical).

image credit: Linda Bergman-Althouse; story link: Toronto Star
image credit: Linda Bergman-Althouse; story link: Toronto Star

Those creatures, North America’s only marsupial, originally came from South America and are well known in the USA. Climate change and a super-flexible diet (they will eat anything and everything) has allowed them to travel more and more north.

They have a few other magical powers that let them adapt and thrive in new places: a resistance to rabies, an immunity to snake venom, opposable “thumbs” on their hands AND feet, tails that can grasp things like tree limbs and bundles of grasses, 50 teeth in their chompers (hella orthodontist bills!), and when threatened, they literally “play possum”.

The possum adapts its diet to whatever it can find. It adapts to temperature changes by bringing extra nesting materials for insulation. Though temperatures have warmed here, the colder days can cause them frostbitten tails and ears, so it’s not a perfect system. This proves a squirrel’s fluffy tail isn’t just for looks. Granted, a rat is just 1 fluffy tail away from people hand feeding it nuts from park benches. But I digress…

So what does a possum have to do with green healthcare? Climate change has “change” in the title. Though some of the changes are lovely (it’s a balmy 17 degrees celsius today in Toronto in February!), some of the changes are not. Health care institutions have to adapt to deal with changes in weather, and changes in demand, and it’s a bit more difficult to pick up a building and go. How well an organization can bounce back from major challenges like floods, droughts, vector borne diseases & extreme heat shows their level of resilience.

What Can Your Organization Do To Be Prepared?

There is help out there. University Health Network, a green leader since Ed was a one-man-eco-friendly-band in ’99, has partnered with organizations like the Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare. They created a toolkit to help health care facilities great and small figure out where they stand and fix it with their “Health Care Facility Climate Change Resiliency Toolkit”.

Sound good? You’re in luck! The Coalition will host a free CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENCY WEBINAR on the subject on Mar 2, 2017, featuring our very own Ed Rubinstein. Find out what two of Canada’s most engaged green hospitals are doing to make their organizations resilient to climate change:

When: Thursday March 2nd, 2017 12 PM – 1 PM EST

Click here register for tickets:


And we have an update on the 2020 Climate Challenge…

2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge: Gold in Climate Leadership & Climate Resiliency

Due to a super-long history of proactive work in sustainability (which you, dear Talkin’ Trash reader, know all about) UHN was honoured with two international awards last month through the 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge: Gold in Climate Leadership and Gold in Climate Resiliency. This challenge is courtesy of Global Green & Healthy Hospitals (GGHH), a project of Health Care Without Harm.  With 744 members in 42 countries on 6 continents, the GGHH community has over 21,700 hospitals and health centers. We were pleased as punch to be 1 of only 5 winners across Canada. We are also happy to showcase the lovely certificate below…



Though the 2020 Healthcare Climate Awards recognize UHN’s efforts, we know there is still so much to do. Our CEO Peter Pisters said: “This work has never been more important and UHN is proud to be recognized for leadership as a Climate Champion. We are committed to building on this remarkable achievement by continuing to make efficient, sustainable changes throughout the organization.”

With a smidge of adaptation, collaboration, cleverness & resiliency, we hope to be in this for the long haul.



For a deeper dive:

2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge Awards:

Government of Canada, Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change:

Infographic, Health Care Without Harm:

Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada report; Canada in a Changing Climate:

World Health Organization; “Protecting Health from Climate Change”: